Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the medical term for blood clots, occurs most often in adults over 60 years of age and affects up to 600,000 Americans every year. DVT occurs when a clot forms deep in the body, often in the lower leg, and is at risk for breaking off and traveling to the lungs, possibly causing death. It’s important to understand the risks and the signs so you can avoid a potentially deadly consequence.
Recognizing the symptoms of DVT can be tricky, as nearly half of all people with the condition don’t show any symptoms at all. Also, the symptoms can often be mistaken for something else. Our expert Phoenix caregivers have compiled the information you need to know to recognize and prevent DVT in yourself or your senior loved ones.
Signs of DVT
Check the lower leg for signs such as:
- Swelling in the foot, ankle or calf (usually one-sided)
- Cramping pain in the calf
- Pain in the foot or ankle
- Redness, paleness or bluish color in the affected area
- Warmth in the area
DVT is often mistaken for an injury, and many people describe the pain in the leg to feel like that of a pulled muscle. It is important to note that often a pulled muscle feels better with elevation, inactivity and time, whereas a DVT will often feel worse over time.
Risk Factors of DVT
Besides being over 60 years old, there are other risk factors that would make you more prone to developing DVT. Certain conditions prevent the blood from moving effectively through your vessels and can increase the risk of developing DVT. These are:
- High blood pressure
- Large bone fracture
- Heavy smoking
- Prolonged bed rest due to illness or injury
- IV therapy
- Family history of DVT
- Inflammatory bowel disorders
- Clotting disorders
- Heart disease
- Staying seated for four or more hours at a time, as in a car or airplane; especially when you have other risks
DVT is a serious threat to your health that will require immediate medical attention. Doctors can do many things to keep the clot from growing and reduce the size and risks, including the use of blood thinners and thromboembolytic medications.
One of the biggest risks of DVT is developing a condition called pulmonary emboli, which is when the blood clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, blocking a blood vessel. This can cause serious harm to your lungs and other areas of your body. Getting immediate medical care is imperative when you have symptoms of a pulmonary emboli, as this can be a life-threatening condition. Signs of pulmonary emboli include:
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Chest pain that worsens when you take a deep breath or when you cough
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or fainting
- Rapid pulse
- Coughing up blood
The biggest lifestyle changes you can make right now to lower your risk of DVT are to:
- Manage your blood pressure
- Lose weight (if you are overweight)
- Quit smoking
- Maintain an active lifestyle
Moving, and avoiding sitting for long periods of time, are especially helpful in the prevention of DVT. If you are traveling, it is recommended to walk the aisle or stand or move your legs. Alternately drawing your toes toward you and extending them away from you also helps the blood flow to pump in your lower legs.
If you are at risk, wear anti-embolitic compression stockings and talk to your doctor about using blood thinning medication, especially after surgery.
For more assistance in keeping your senior loved ones healthy, safe and well, contact the top rated Phoenix caregivers at Nightingale Homecare any time at (602) 504-1555 for professional, customized, in-home care solutions.