Approximately 900,000 individuals in the United States are impacted by deep vein thrombosis or DVT every year. This results in the deaths of approximately 60,000 to 100,000 people. Within one month of being diagnosed, 10 to 30 percent of all patients will die.
What Causes Deep Vein Thrombosis?
DVT is the formation of blood clots in deep veins. When a blood clot breaks free, it can move to other areas of the body. In some cases, the blood flow to the lungs is cut off.
What are the Complications of Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Complications resulting from DVT can be extremely serious, including post-thrombotic syndrome, chronic venous insufficiency, and pulmonary embolism (PE).
- Post-thrombotic syndrome includes swelling, redness, pain, sores and ulcers.
- Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when blood remains in the vein as opposed to traveling back to the heart.
- PE occurs when a portion of the clot separates from the vein, moves to the lungs and cuts off the blood flow. This complication is a medical emergency and can result in death.
Common Treatment Options for DVT
So, what treatment options can people discuss with their physician?...
1. Blood Thinners
DVP is frequently treated with blood thinners, called anticoagulants, to help prevent additional blood clots. Existing clots are not broken apart by blood thinners.
Why Blood Thinners Help DVT
Blood thinners are available in pills and injections to prevent the size of the blood clots from increasing. They also decrease the risk of developing more blood clots. The injections are either given intravenously into the arm or beneath the skin. The most common injectable blood thinners include:
Injectible blood thinners are usually used for several days prior to the individual being prescribed a pill form, such as:
To help prevent new blood clots, blood thinners may be prescribed for life. The pills must be taken exactly as prescribed to prevent serious side effects. Periodic blood testing is necessary to determine the period of time necessary for the individual's blood to clot.
In some cases, compression stockings are recommended...
2. Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are recommended for swelling in the legs due to DVT. Numerous physicians also recommend wearing compression stockings for individuals with a high risk of developing DVT.
Why Compressions Stockings Help DVT
Compression stocking can decrease the risk of developing blood clots and reduce swelling. A prescription is required to ensure the individual is receiving the correct level of compression.
The stockings either reach just above or below the knee. The stockings are tighter at the ankles, then loosen as they travel up the leg. The result is a gentle compression of the leg.
For more serious situations, vena cava filters may be used...
3. Vena Cava Filters
Vena cava filters prevent blood clots in the legs from traveling to the lungs. This movement results in a serious condition known as pulmonary embolism (PE).
Why Vena Cava Filters Help DVT
Vena cava filters are essential for individuals developing blood clots while on medication or patients unable to take blood-thinning medications. Blood clots are prevented from moving from the legs to the lungs due to the filters.
A catheter is used to insert the filter into one of the larger neck or groin veins, then into the biggest vein in the body or the vena cava during a minor surgical procedure. Once the filter has been placed, blood clots are caught as they circulate through the body. Although vena cava filters will not stop blood clots from forming, the filter will help prevent pulmonary embolism.
Clot-busting medications are a common way to break down existing clots...
4. Clot-Busting Medication
Clot-busting medication is sometimes recommended for:
- circulation issues
- large blood clots
- individuals with a significant risk for a pulmonary embolism
- clots in the arms (as opposed to the legs)
Why Clot-Busting Medication Helps DVT
Even though blood clots are eventually dissolved by the body, there is a risk of damage occurring inside of the vein. Physicians sometimes recommend a clot-busting medication (thrombolytic) to save the impacted vein.
Risks & Procedure
The risk is more extensive than with blood thinners due to the increased potential issues of stroke and bleeding. The procedure must be performed in a hospital. Using an X-ray for guidance, a catheter is inserted into the vein.
The catheter is then worked to enable the drug to be delivered right into the blood clot. If the vein is narrow, it may be enlarged during the procedure to help prevent blood clots in the future through the placement of a stint or a balloon angioplasty.
Sometimes surgery is the only option...
Surgery may be necessary for large blood clots in the legs or arm to prevent serious issues, including tissue damage.
Why Surgery Helps DVT
Due to the risks, surgery is only recommended for severe cases of DVT. Surgery enables the surgeon to remove a blood clot located in the leg or arm. This is referred to as a surgical thrombectomy.
An incision is made by the surgeon directly into the blood vessel. The blood clot can then be located and removed and the tissue and blood vessel repaired. A small inflatable balloon may be necessary to ensure the blood vessel remains open while the clot is being removed.
The blood vessel and balloon are removed at the same time. The risks of surgery include excess bleeding and damaging the blood vessel.
There are specific exercises beneficial for DVT, which may help reduce risk of DVT in the future...
Correct exercises can decrease the risk of DVT for individuals sitting for long periods of time.
Why Exercises Help DVT
When an individual sits for long periods of time, the risk of DVT increases. There are, fortunately, exercises beneficial for relieving the symptoms of DVT and helping to prevent the formation of blood clots. These exercises are performed while the individual is seated to help with blood circulation by keeping the legs in motion. The three most often recommended exercises are defined below.
- While seated, the leg is bent, then the knee is raised upwards toward the chest.
- For a better stretch, the arms can be wrapped around the knees.
- This position should be maintained for a few seconds.
- The same exercise is then performed using the other leg.
- The stretches should be performed three to four times.
- While seated, both feet are lifted above the floor.
- The toes are used to make circular movements for a few seconds in the same direction.
- The same procedure is then performed in the opposite direction.
- This exercise should be performed three to four times.
- While seated, both feet are placed flat on the floor.
- The heels are then raised with the balls of the feet remaining firmly on the floor.
- After a few seconds, the heels are lowered.
- With the heels on the floor, the balls of the feet are raised and the position held for a few seconds prior to lowering the feet back down.
- The foot pumps should be repeated three to four times.
When exercise is not enough, percutaneous transcatheter treatment may be recommended by a physician...
7. Percutaneous Transcatheter Treatment
Percutaneous transcatheter treatment is a specific therapy for large clots located deep in the body in a large vein.
Why Percutaneous Transcatheter Treatment Helps DVT
This treatment enables the blood clot to be removed with a flexible, thin tube. The procedure is performed using a small puncture as opposed to making a large incision in the skin. A mesh coil is then used to hold open the vein to help prevent additional blood clots.
This treatment is used for:
- patients with large veins
- patients at risk of a pulmonary embolism
- blood clots above the knee
- significant DVT symptoms
- severe and large blood clots
- reducing the risk of post-thrombotic syndrome
In some cases, using specific herbs can decrease the risk of DVT or help to thin the blood (although they absolutely must be cleared by a physician first)...
8. Natural Herbs, Vitamins & Nutrients
There are specific herbs and vitamins that may help prevent additional blood clots. Consulting with a physician prior to using any home remedy for DVT is absolutely necessary.
Why Natural Herbs Help DVT
Certain supplements and natural herbs may help prevent the formation of blood clots. Do not take without doctor approval due to the potential for serious drug interactions. The five most frequently used natural remedies include the following.
Ginger contains a specific acid known as salicylate, which may help prevent deep vein thrombosis. Ginger can be used in a wide variety of recipes, brewed into a tea, and offers numerous health benefits.
Foods rich in vitamin E can be used as a natural blood thinner for DVT. Vitamin E is found in a wide variety of foods, including:
- soybean oils
If the individual is taking warfarin for DVT, consuming a lot of leafy green vegetables is not recommended. These vegetables are rich in vitamin K, which can decrease the effectiveness of warfarin.
Cayenne pepper contains salicylates. Not only can they help thin the blood for DVT, but they can also help increase circulation and lower blood pressure. Cayenne peppers can be added whole to numerous recipes or ground into a fine powder.
Notably, cayenne peppers are too spicy for certain people. For this reason, they are available in capsule supplements.
One of the compounds found in turmeric is curcumin, which may offer individuals with DVT blood-thinning properties.
Turmeric can be added to many different recipes as a spice or consumed with a drink made of honey and milk. Turmeric is also available in extracts and supplements.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These acids may help decrease cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, and triglycerides. These are all important components for helping prevent the formation of blood clots. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in both fish oil supplements and fish.
The Bottom Line
It's important to note that these options cannot replace professional medical treatment. They may only be used in conjunction with other treatment options, and only then with the express permission of a doctor.
What's most important for people with DVT to know?...
The Bottom Line
Deep vein thrombosis is a serious medical condition. Fortunately, there are numerous types of treatments currently available.
Don't Wait to Talk to a Doctor
Due to the risks of this condition, any individual at a higher risk of DVT or experiencing the symptoms should consult with a physician as soon as possible. In some situations, fast treatment may save the life of the individual. If DVT is left untreated, it may lead to death.