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Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms

Posted by on Monday, February 14, 2011, 5:34
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A thrombosis is a blood clot. The clot may block a blood vessel, causing potentially serious health effects. A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the leg. A deep vein thrombosis in the thigh carries a risk of pulmonary embolism. This occurs when the clot, or thrombus, loses its attachment to the inside of the vein, leaves the leg and lodges in the pulmonary artery, the main blood vessel to the lungs. If the clot is large enough, it can completely block that artery and cause death.

Blood flow through the leg veins generally requires some mechanical help, since it ‘flows’ up instead of down. Working calf muscles act as a pump. The contracting muscles compress the veins and force the blood in these veins upwards to the heart. This process is aided by valves in the veins, which direct the flow of blood and counteract the effects of gravity.

 

Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms
Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms

 

Sitting still for long periods of time allows blood to pool in the veins. There is debate over whether or not the confinement of long-distance international flights may contribute to the risk of DVT. This condition is known as ‘economy-class syndrome’.

Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis
The symptoms of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) may include:
Pain and tenderness in the leg
Pain on extending the foot
Swelling of the lower leg, ankle and foot
Skin that is red and warm.
Blood clotting
Blood contains platelets and compounds called clotting agents. Platelets are sticky and form the basis of the blood’s ability to thicken (coagulate). If a blood vessel is cut, platelets collect at the site of the injury. In conjunction with clotting agents, the platelets produce a web or mesh, which traps platelets and creates a plug to seal off the wound. The ability of the blood to clot is essential for survival, but it can also lead to the formation of a thrombus.

Risk factors for DVT
Some of the risk factors that may contribute to the formation of a thrombus include:
Coronary heart disease
Being overweight or obese
Cigarette smoking
Pregnancy
A high-dose combined oral contraceptive pill
A susceptibility to ‘stickier’ blood and a family history of DVT
Sitting still for long periods of time
Recent surgery or injury
Some types of cancer
Congestive cardiac failure
Previous thrombosis.
Complications of DVT
If the DVT remains in the leg vein, it can cause a number of complications, including inflammation (phlebitis) and leg ulcers. However, the real danger occurs if the clot leaves the vein and travels through the circulatory system. A pulmonary embolism means the clot has blocked off the main artery to the lungs or one of its major branches.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of pulmonary embolisms are linked to deep vein thrombosis. Around one third of people who experience a major pulmonary embolism will die. Life-saving treatment includes thrombolytic and anticoagulation drugs that dissolve the clot and restore blood flow.

‘Economy class syndrome’
International flights are suspected of contributing to the formation of DVT in susceptible people, although the research evidence is currently divided. For example, a Dutch study found no link between DVT and long-distance travel of any kind, while English researchers proposed, in a paper published in the Lancet, that flying directly increases a person’s risk.

Some airlines prefer to err on the side of caution and offer suggestions to passengers on how to reduce the risk of DVT. These include:
Wear loose clothes
Avoid cigarettes and alcohol
Drink plenty of fluids
Move about the cabin whenever possible
Don’t sit with legs crossed
Perform leg and foot stretches and exercises while seated
Consult with your doctor before travelling.
Diagnosis of DVT
A deep vein thrombosis can easily be mistaken for other disorders, including lymphoedema and chronic venous disease. The diagnosis of a DVT is confirmed using a number of tests, such as:
Venous ultrasound – a special type of scan
Contrast venography – a dye is injected into the foot and special x-rays are taken of the leg veins.

Treatment includes:
Hospitalisation
Intravenous drugs to dissolve the clot
Long-term treatment with anticoagulant drugs, such as Warfarin, to prevent further clotting
Blood tests to monitor the ‘stickiness’ of the blood
Reducing risk factors such as quitting cigarettes or losing excess body fat.
Prevention strategies
Graduated compression stockings to increase internal pressure have been found to decrease the risk of post-surgery DVT for hospital patients. The use of prophylactic anticoagulants in moderate to high-risk hospital patients is also recommended.

Other methods to reduce the risk of DVT include treatment for coronary heart disease, reducing excess body fat, quitting cigarettes, exercising regularly and switching to a high-fibre, low-fat diet.

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