If you notice swelling and pain in your leg, talk to your doctor right away. You could be experiencing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition in which a blood clot forms in a deep vein – usually in the legs. These clots are dangerous because they can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
“Deep vein thrombosis often occurs when you are sitting still a long time, as when you are bedridden or are taking a long car or plane trip,” says Colleen Moore, MD, FACS, vascular surgeon at Saint Francis Medical Center. “Blood clots can form when your calf muscles are not squeezing. It can also occur as a result of an injury or surgery. Cancer or blood-clotting disorders also put you at high risk.”
The most common symptoms include swelling, warmth and pain in the affected leg. However, in about half of all cases, deep vein thrombosis occurs without causing any symptoms.
“The key to diagnosing DVT is to first inspect it. After a brief physical examination, an ultrasound is performed to evaluate the veins in the legs for the presence of a clot,” says Moore.
Depending upon the size and location of the clot, there are procedures that can be done to break them up called venography and thrombolysis. Treatment almost always involves taking blood thinners. Anyone with a history of DVT should be wearing compression stockings.
There are several steps you can take to prevent deep vein thrombosis, including:
- Walking down the aisle once an hour when you are on a long plane ride, and making frequent stops on a long car ride. Be sure to drink a lot of water.
- Taking blood thinners as prescribed.
- Losing weight, quitting smoking and controlling your blood pressure, as these factors all increase your risk for deep vein thrombosis.
- Talking to your doctor about wearing compression stockings.
For more information, call 573-331-3996.