Deep Vein Thrombosis

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What is DVT? Deep vein thrombosis explained

Sometimes known as economy class syndrome, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is caused by the formation of a blood clot (thrombus) in the deep veins of the leg.  The precise number of people affected by DVT and PE (pulmonary embolism) is unknown, although as many as 900,000 people could be affected (1 to 2 per 1,000) each year in the United States.

DVT occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs, groin or arm.  It can cause swelling and pain in the leg, although it often occurs without any symptoms, and may have long-term consequences.

Blood clots are dangerous because they can break off and move with the flow of blood into the heart or lungs, where they can block major blood vessels and cause a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.

Deep vein thrombosis symptoms

The typical signs of deep vein thrombosis are:

  • Pain, swelling and tenderness in one of your legs (usually your calf)
  • A heavy ache in the affected area
  • Warm skin in the area of the clot
  • Red skin, particularly at the back of the leg, below the knee
  • However, DVT can often occur without any obvious symptoms.

Post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS) is also characterized by swelling, pain, discoloration, scaling in the affected limb and can result in leg ulcers development.
DVT leg symptoms can occur during long-haul flights.  Aggravating factors are the low cabin pressure that increases the tendency of the blood to stagnate in the veins and low humidity that causes large amounts of body fluid to evaporate.  As a result, the blood thickens even more, thereby increasing the likelihood of blood clots. 


DVT Prophylaxis: What are the prevention measures?

Thrombosis prevention is also known as thrombosis prophylaxis.  It comprises treatments that are designed to counteract the formation of blood clots inside blood vessels.  These prevention measures often begin just after someone has had surgery, as this puts them at higher risk of having deep vein thrombosis, largely due to lack of movement afterward.  Additionally, DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is often linked to air travel as sitting in confined spaces without moving for a long periods of time negatively influences the blood flow in the vessels.

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