The reason the medical community is banding together in March for DVT Awareness Month is that it is a disease that afflicts an estimated 2 million Americans, the majority of whom do not know that they have it. Many – truth be told – don't even know what the initials DVT stand for, even though more Americans die from the disease or complications arising from it each year than die from breast cancer, AIDS, and automobile accidents combined.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that can affect people of any age, although your risk of developing it doubles every ten years after the age of 50. What happens when you have DVT is that blood clots begin to form in the deep veins of your body, most commonly in the legs. These clots literally "clog up the pipes" and restrict proper blood circulation, which is a concern in itself, but what makes DVT such a serious health risk is that the blood clots do not always stay where they formed.
Instead, they break loose from the walls of the blood vessels and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, where they can cause pulmonary embolisisms (which cause 300,000 deaths in the US a year), or to the brain, where they can cause strokes. This serious health care problem is particularly lamentable because it is preventable – DVT can be easily and effectively treated before it becomes life-threatening, but only if it is diagnosed.
What our Winston-Salem, NC patients need to know about the risks of DVT
There are many things that put you at a higher risk of developing DVT. Among the most important risk factors are two things that are a growing cause of alarm across the medical and health care communities for many reasons – obesity and inactivity. Both are epidemic in the United States, and both cause or contribute to a number of serious diseases, DVT among them. If you are obese, the extra weight you carry places pressure on the veins of your legs, and can cause damage that results in the formation of blood clots, and DVT. Inactivity – meaning not just "not getting enough exercise" but sitting for long periods – also weakens the muscles of the legs and puts undue pressure on the deep veins there.
Other risk factors for DVT include smoking cigarettes, having diseases such as cancer or lupus, having experienced long periods of bed rest or recent surgery, sustaining fractures to bones in the leg or pelvis, and having a family history of developing blood clots. For women, having recently given birth, taking birth control pills, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy to treat adverse symptoms of menopause also greatly increase your risk of developing DVT.
How do I know if I have DVT?
Unfortunately, deep vein thrombosis does not always present itself in symptoms that people can recognize. When it does, you may notice pain or swelling in the legs, or changes in the color (redness) or temperature (warmth) of the skin near the blood clots themselves. But most of the time there are few overt symptoms of DVT, so the best way to know whether you have this disease – especially if you fall into one or more of the risk categories discussed above – is to seek the advice of a vein specialist and get a DVT screening.
Here at Novant Health Vein Specialists, Dr. Ray Workman and his fellow professionals feel strongly enough about the need for DVT screenings that they think almost everyone should have such a screening, but if you fall into one of the high risk categories, it's even more important. The DVT screening itself is fast (usually taking less than an hour), painless, and non-invasive. Dr. Workman uses Doppler ultrasound technology to look beneath the surface of the skin to locate any blood clots, and can also perform blood tests to see if antibodies appear in your blood that indicate you have a tendency to develop blood clots.
So give Dr. Workman a call at 336.245-4890 and set up an appointment or go online for an initial consultation. If he feels you are at risk for DVT, he can schedule a screening and you'll know for sure whether you have it. If you do, Dr. Workman is an expert in the use of minimally-invasive, non-surgical techniques to remove the blood clots before they become dangerous, and can help you develop lifestyle routines that will help you to keep new ones from forming. Don't leave the state of your vein health to chance – get a checkup today.