DVT: Beware of This Silent Killer

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Deep vein thrombosis is a serious health condition that can lead to fatal consequences if not treated early. Learn about how to prevent the dangers of DVT.

Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT is a life-threatening condition that can lead to disabilities, amputations, and death. DVT occurs when a blood vessel, usually in the lower limbs, is clogged with blood clots cutting off blood circulation to the affected body part.

Each year, about 1-2% of the American population, or 2 million people, develop DVT. Some 300,000 people die of complications caused by DVT, particularly pulmonary embolism. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve the outcome of the patient. However, only one-third of DVT cases are detected, so DVT is considered a leading ‘silent killer.’

For many patients, the initial symptoms of deep vein thrombosis do not seem life-threatening. Some experience leg cramps, pain or difficult walking which can be managed by resting the legs. Other initial symptoms include tingly, cold, numb and pale limbs; or warm, swollen leg. The patient may also experience recurrent minor symptoms. But since these symptoms appear manageable, people tend to delay seeking medical evaluation and treatment – a fatal mistake. Furthermore, many people are unaware about the symptoms of DVT.

If someone develops these symptoms, bring him to the emergency department right away.  Delaying treatment can cost a leg! Left untreated, deep vein thrombosis can also cause pulmonary embolism, wherein blood clots block blood vessels in the lungs, resulting in impaired blood circulation.

Once the patient arrives in the emergency department, the doctors would insert a catheter into the blood vessel and administer anti-coagulants or blood thinners. This clears up the clot and allows efficient blood flow. It is important to note that while treatment strategies for DVT are often effective, they are not free of risks. The use of anticoagulants or blood thinners can cause a precipitous drop in blood pressure or blockage of a blood vessel in the lungs. Because of the ever present risk, patients being treated for DVT are carefully monitored.

Just like any other silent killers, such as heart attack and stroke, prevention is the best way to go. The fight against deep vein thrombosis starts with preventing formation of blood clot. Blood clots develop due to blood pooling in the legs from prolonged inactivity, such as sitting for a long time. Avoid sitting absolutely still for prolonged periods. If you are on bed rest or flying long distances, get up every now and then to stretch your legs and let the blood circulate. If you are driving for long hours, schedule stops so you can do some leg work.

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Blood clots may also be caused by certain medical conditions or taking

medications. Make sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations if you are prone to blood clots. If you experience recurring leg cramps and tingly, numb, cold feet, pale, or warm, swollen feet, visit your doctor. All these can help prevent the dangers of deep vein thrombosis.

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