These 5 Factors Increase Your Risk for DVT – The Silent Killer
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) may be the most lethal silent killer you have never heard of. However, in contrast to heart attacks and strokes, this widespread cardiovascular issue receives very little public attention. But here's why it should.
Shocking statistics about DVT
- DVT could affect as many as 900,000 people annually in the United States—roughly one in every 1,000 people.
- A DVT kills between 60,000 and 100,000 people in the United States. Within a few weeks or in the hospital, two-thirds of these people die.
- Swelling, pain, discoloration, scaling, and skin changes around the ankle of the affected leg are long-term effects of a DVT that affect one-third to one-half of U.S. people.
- Within ten years, one-third of people who have a DVT will have another one.
At Sierra Hematology & Oncology Medical Center, our hematologists in Sacramento strive to educate our patients about the significance of early diagnosis and treatment for DVT, which is both underdiagnosed and serious. Here’s what you must know.
Why is DVT a silent killer?
So, what is it about DVT that makes it important enough to be the focus of everyone? Why is it called a silent killer?
After abdominal, pelvic, or orthopedic surgery, trauma, or stroke, clots frequently form in the leg or pelvis. After breaking off, this clot travels through the heart and blocks the blood flow to the lungs (pulmonary embolus, or PE), resulting in chest pain or shortness of breath. If the clot is large enough, DVT may even result in death.
Recognize the signs of a DVT
A blood clot in the legs may be completely silent or asymptomatic within the affected vein, which is extremely dangerous. However, there are some obvious signs to look for, such as:
- Sudden leg swelling
- Pain, fullness, or pressure in the leg
- Warmth or coolness
- Leg discomfort
- Tenderness and redness
- Skin discoloration of the lower leg
When discussing clots in the legs, it is essential to keep in mind that the legs have two vein systems:
- Deep system
- Superficial system
The deep system carries the majority of blood out of the legs and is surrounded by muscles. It is most susceptible to clot-related complications. These veins are invisible to us, so a clot could be "silent" without causing any symptoms or cause dull, heavy pressure, pain, and swelling.
A lump or cord that is tender to the touch can be caused by clots in superficial veins outside the muscle. This is painful, especially when standing, and occasionally has pinkish-colored skin on top. Patients occasionally mistake this pink skin discoloration for an infection, but it is not. These clots may be painful, but they do not result in dangerous outcomes or cause panic.
Nevertheless, a Doppler ultrasound examination and appointment with a care provider, especially a hematology specialist, should be made.
Risk factors for DVT
DVT requires prompt diagnosis and treatment since newly formed DVT clots are more likely to break away, travel through your bloodstream, and endanger your health or life than older clots. Additionally, DVT frequently develops without any observable symptoms.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from this highly preventable issue is to be aware of the factors that put you at risk for developing a DVT.
You are at risk for DVT if you experience any of the following factors:
- Vein injury - Any time a vein is damaged, it is more likely to develop a DVT. If a bone fracture or severe muscle injury occurs in your pelvis or leg, it can increase your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is also linked to certain surgical procedures, such as hip, knee, bariatric, or female pelvic surgery; Vessels that have been affected by PICC lines and dialysis catheters are also susceptible.
- Aging, lifestyle factors, and health history - DVT can occur at any age, particularly if you have any health-related risk factors, even though adults over 60 are more likely to experience it. If you are overweight or obese and have a family history of DVT, pulmonary embolisms, or clotting disorders, you are more likely to get a deep-vein blood clot. If you smoke, your risk also goes up.
- Prolonged inactivity - DVT takes place when something slows or changes the blood flow in your veins. This can happen out of the blue, but most of the time it's caused by an external factor. DVT can be caused by any kind of prolonged inactivity, like being on bed rest, sitting for long periods every day, or even sitting in one position for too long (like when traveling by car or airplane).
- Increased estrogen - Having estrogen levels that are higher than normal can also raise your risk of DVT blood clots. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause and certain hormonal birth control medications can increase your risk of developing DVT. Women who are pregnant or who are less than three months postpartum have a higher risk of DVT because pregnancy also increases estrogen levels.
- Hypercoagulable states - Any disease or condition that makes your blood clot more easily is referred to as a "hypercoagulable state." Hypercoagulable states that raise the risk of DVT include cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and certain autoimmune disorders like lupus and inflammatory bowel disease.
DVT can be effectively healed and prevented with prompt treatment. Deep-vein blood clots can typically be treated by taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) regularly.
Remember that a pulmonary embolism is a grave medical ailment. Seek immediate medical attention if you or a loved one ever experiences chest pain, shortness of breath, or a cough that may include blood.
At Sierra Hematology & Oncology Medical Center, our hematologists in Sacramento can assist you if you are concerned about your DVT risk factors. To schedule an appointment with one of our hematology specialists, contact our medical centers in Carmichael, Folsom, Sacramento, and Roseville, all across California, right now.