DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in the leg.
DVT is a relatively common condition, with statistics suggesting it affects 52 in every 100,000 Australians. Despite the frequency with which it occurs, it can cause quite serious complications. Without DVT treatment, deep vein thrombosis can result in a pulmonary embolism, which is life-threatening.
The difficult thing about identifying and treating DVT is that there are often no symptoms of the condition. Patients who do experience symptoms often don’t see them as being particularly dangerous or worrisome, meaning they don’t seek medical treatment until it is too late.
Symptoms commonly associated with deep vein thrombosis include:
- Leg swelling
- Leg pain, particularly around the calf area
- A change in the skin colour of your leg — usually to red or purple
- Feeling of warmth in the affected leg.
A vascular surgeon in Melbourne will often arrive at the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis through requesting an appropriate test such as an ultrasound. Prior to doing this however, the vascular surgeon would perform an appropriate history and examination, including determining whether the patient is affected by DVT risk factors, which are as follows.
DVT Risk Factors
Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to be affected by any number of vascular conditions, including deep vein thrombosis. As we age, the strength of various vascular structures naturally begins to fail.
This degradation may be exacerbated by lifestyle factors, including diet, level of physical activity, a family history of vascular disease, and the presence of other associated health conditions, like diabetes.
Sedentary lifestyle: Individuals who follow a sedentary lifestyle — whether because of the industry they work in or what they choose to do in their free time — may be at increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.
A lack of movement is associated with reduced muscle contractions in the leg, which can slow blood flow, resulting in clotting.
Patients who are on long-term bed rest or are recovering from surgery are also at risk of developing DVT because of this reason.
Hormonal treatment: Medication that affects hormone levels, including birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, has been linked to an increased risk of DVT. Such medication can increase the likelihood of blood clotting occurring. Such side-effects are quite rare but important to be aware of.
Pregnancy: The risk of blood clots developing increases significantly during pregnancy and following birth.
As the baby grows, it puts more pressure on blood vessels around the pelvis, reducing blood flow and escalating the likelihood of a clot occurring. Blood also tends to clot more easily as a pregnancy progresses in anticipation of potential blood loss during labor.
While all pregnant women need to be aware of this risk, those who are affected by other risk factors, including a family history of vascular disease, age, pre-existing medical conditions, and long periods of immobility, should pay particular attention to any signs of pain, swelling, or warmth in the legs.
Family history: If someone in your family has previously suffered from DVT, you may be at increased risk of also developing the condition as it might signify an underlying hereditary problem with your blood.
Lifestyle factors: Living a healthy life will help prevent a wide array of health problems, including those that affect your vascular system. Avoiding smoking, following a healthy diet and ensuring you engage in an appropriate level of physical activity are three simple things you can do to protect your vascular health.
DVT Treatment Options
If you notice signs and symptoms of DVT, immediately contact your general practitioner or emergency department. They will be able to determine whether you require specialist assistance from a vascular surgeon in Melbourne.
A vascular surgeon may recommend treating blood clots with a type of medication that will thin the blood and prevent blood clots from increasing in size.
Alternatively, they may perform a ‘clot-busting’ procedure using a catheter to remove the clot from the affected vein. This is a slightly more invasive DVT treatment option and is generally used in serious circumstances.
Your vascular surgeon may also suggest certain lifestyle changes that will reduce the risk of further clots from forming. Such changes may include getting more exercise, reducing the amount of time you spend sitting or lying down, and wearing compression stockings.
If left untreated, DVT is a life-threatening condition. If you are at all concerned about your vascular health or believe certain risk factors are increasing the likelihood of you developing deep vein thrombosis, speak to a vascular surgeon in Melbourne today.