March is the time of year when organizers coordinate events and activities in this country to raise the general awareness of Deep Vein Thrombosis. This month is the time to give some thought to this unpleasant disease. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) develops when a blood clot forms in one of the major arteries of your arm, leg, pelvis, or thigh.
When a blood clot forms, it can completely or partially block all blood flow to a specific area of the body. This can be extremely dangerous in and of itself, but there could be an even greater danger. If that blood clot becomes dislodged and makes its way toward the heart, it can restrict blood flow from the heart, and trigger a major disaster. Because it can be such a serious issue, it’s important for you to recognize all the potential issues associated with DVT in your elderly loved one.
When to see a doctor
It can sometimes be a difficult decision, making the call on whether or not to see your doctor about a potential DVT situation. If you’re ever in doubt, your rule of thumb should be just to make an appointment for your senior loved one, and have them checked out by the family doctor. In the meantime, it will be important for you to recognize some of the symptoms that are traditionally associated with deep vein thrombosis:
- leg pain such as soreness or cramping, often beginning in the area around the calves and radiating outward.
- swelling in the legs
- a sensation of unusual warmth in whichever leg is affected.
- some kind of unusual coloration on the leg, for instance, red or purple, or any color which is not typical for your skin.
In addition, there are some very pronounced symptoms typically associated with a pulmonary embolism, which can be a life-threatening version of deep vein thrombosis, and these include the following:
- rapid pulse or breathing
- lightheadedness, possibly accompanied by fainting spells
- coughing up blood
- shortness of breath and difficulty with breathing
- chest pain that seems to worsen whenever you cough or when you have to take a deep breath.
If you encounter any of the symptoms associated with a pulmonary embolism, you should act quickly and get your senior loved one to a doctor or even an emergency room as quickly as possible. These are cases where a blood clot may have broken free, traveled through the circulatory system, and come to rest in an area near the heart. This can very quickly become disastrous if you don’t act decisively and quickly.
Causes of deep vein thrombosis
Blood clots can be caused by anything that causes a disruption in the circulatory system and hinders blood flow. The primary causes of deep vein thrombosis are generally injuries or damage done to a vein through surgery or some kind of injury. It’s also possible for an infection to lead to deep vein thrombosis, and if you have an inflamed area in your legs or arms, this could likewise lead to DVT if the situation persists for an extended timeframe. Here are some of the other risk factors which increase the likelihood that you or your senior loved one might develop deep vein thrombosis:
- Heart failure – this will increase the risk of DVT as well as pulmonary embolisms. People who have heart failure will not have their lungs and heart working as well as they should, and this will make any symptoms much more noticeable.
- Inflammatory bowel disease – anyone with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease will be at an increased risk of developing DVT.
- Age – while DVT can afflict people of all ages, it happens more frequently in those individuals over the age of 60.
- Family history – if anyone in your family has had either DVT or a pulmonary embolism, it increases the likelihood that other family members will develop the same condition.
- Cancer – some cancers release substances into the bloodstream which can cause clotting, and some forms of cancer treatment will also escalate the likelihood of developing blood clots.
- Birth control pills – these will sometimes elevate the likelihood of blood clots forming around your body.
- Being overweight – anyone who is overweight will have increased pressure exerted on the veins of their legs or their pelvis, and become more prone to developing DVT.
- Smoking – smoking has a significant impact on the circulatory system and can cause an increased risk of blood clots and the development of DVT.
- Pregnancy – pregnant women will always have additional pressure exerted on the veins of their legs or their pelvis, and this can continue right up to six weeks after a baby has been born.
- Being sedentary – whenever your legs are inactive for a long period of time, the calf muscles will contract and blood flow will be inhibited. Anyone who sits for a long time, such as on a long road trip or a long airline flight, will have an increased risk of developing DVT. This is also true of people who are on bed rest after surgery.