Deep vein thrombosis refers to the formation of a blood clot in one of the deep veins, usually a leg vein. Preventing deep vein thrombosis is important, because if the blood clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms are life-threatening emergencies.
Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis can occur due to medical conditions that affect blood clotting, such as inherited conditions, pregnancy, using birth control pills, smoking, being obese, and suffering from heart failure or inflammatory bowel disease.
Prior injury or surgery to the leg veins increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis. It can also occur after not moving for a prolonged period of time, such as after surgery, after being placed on bed rest, or even sitting immobile for hours while traveling.
Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis
Hospitalized patients who are confined to a bed are often given anti-clotting medications to help prevent deep vein thrombosis. Individuals who are thought to be at elevated risk of the condition may also be prescribed anti-clotting medications.
In addition, most individuals at slightly elevated risk of deep vein thrombosis due to traveling, pregnancy, smoking, birth control pill use, or obesity are not at a high enough risk of deep vein thrombosis to even consider taking prophylactic anti-clotting medications. One possible solution may be conservative therapy.
Get Up and Move
One basic method to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis is to move. Walking or any other use of the leg causes the muscles of the calf to contract and force blood out of the leg veins and back into the body. Standing up and walking around as often as possible can dramatically reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. If walking isn’t possible due to injury or space constraints, flexing the feet up and down can simulate the calf muscle pumping effect.
Quitting smoking and losing excess pounds through diet, exercise, or bariatric surgery can dramatically reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. Individuals who regularly exercise develop improved circulation in the legs, which reduces their risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.
Wearing compression stockings while traveling, bed-ridden, or pregnant can help reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. These stockings help prevent blood from pooling in the leg veins, which reduces the risk of clots forming.
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