From Parkwest Health & Lifestyles
Your veins pump blood across your body and to the heart as part of your circulatory system. When a clot forms in a vein, it can cause major issues, including immediate death. You can lower your risk factor for blood clots through lifestyle changes and medication.
What is vascular disease?
Vascular disease is a condition that affects the arteries and/or veins. Most often, it affects blood flow, either by blocking or weakening blood vessels or by damaging the valves that are found in veins. Organs and other body structures may be damaged by vascular disease as a result of decreased or completely blocked blood flow.
What causes vascular disease?
Causes of vascular disease include:
■■Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of vascular disease and may start as early as childhood. However, the disease has the potential to progress rapidly in adulthood. It is generally characterized by the accumulation of fatty deposits along the innermost layer of the arteries. If the disease process progresses, plaque formation may take place. This thickening narrows the arteries and can decrease blood flow or completely block the flow of blood to organs and other body tissues and structures.
■Embolus/thrombus. A blood vessel may be blocked by an embolus (a tiny mass of debris that moves through the bloodstream) or a thrombus (a blood clot).
■Inflammation. In general, inflammation of blood vessels is referred to as vasculitis, which includes a range of disorders. Inflammation may lead to narrowing and/ or blockage of blood vessels.
■Trauma/injury. Trauma or injury involving the blood vessels may lead to inflammation or infection, which can damage the blood vessels and lead to narrowing and/or blockage.
Deep Vein Thrombosis: What you need to know
WHAT: Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot develops in a vein deep inside the body. These clots develop most often in the lower legs or thighs.
“Very rarely does DVT occur in both legs,” C. Scott Callicutt, MD, FACS, Premier Surgical surgeon, said. “If you are having swelling or pain in one leg, you should seek treatment. DVT carries the risk of limb loss and death. The clot could get so extensive, the blood in your leg may back up to a point at which the leg can no longer be used.”
RISKS: Several factors can increase aperson’s likelihood of developing DVT, but they do not cause the disease. Risk factors include:
■Genetic tendency for blood clots
■Surgery in the hip, leg or abdomen
■A long period of rest
■Use of birth control pills
■Certain diseases and conditions including varicose veins, cancer and inflammatory bowel disease
■Previous blood clot
SYMPTOMS: DVT occurs with symptoms about half the time. When symptoms do occur, they typically include:
■Swelling in the leg
■Red, discolored or white skin
■Rapid heart beat
■More visible surface veins
■Dull ache, tightness, tenderness or pain in the leg
DIAGNOSIS: In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for DVT include:
■Duplex ultrasound. This test uses high frequency sound waves to look at the speed of blood flow and the veins. Because this procedure is noninvasive and doesn’t involve radiation, it is the most common test for DVT.
■Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This diagnostic procedure uses a combination of large magnets, radio frequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body, and is particularly effective in diagnosing deep vein thrombosis in the pelvis.
■Venogram. This test uses X-rays and IV contrast dye to
visualize the vein. Contrast dye causes the blood vessels to appear opaque on the X-ray image, allowing the doctor to visualize the blood vessels being evaluated.
TREATMENT: For patients with DVT, treatment will be determined by your doctor based on:
■Your age, overall health and medical history
■Extent of the disease
■Signs and symptoms
The goals of treatment are to prevent the clot from growing and to ensure that it doesn’t break off and travel through the veins to the lungs. Treatment also helps reduce the possibility of another blood clot forming, and can include anti-coagulant medications and blood thinners.
In some cases, a filter may be inserted into the vena cava, which is the large vein that returns blood from the body to the heart. The filter, also called a clot catcher, is used in patients who can’t take medication or are not benefiting from blood thinners.
PREVENTION: “If you have a history of clotting disorders in your family, obesity or a sedentary lifestyle, you can take simple measures to help prevent DVT and pulmonary embolism,” Callicutt explained.
“Before you sit for a long time or travel, walk around for 30 minutes and stretch. Contract your muscles in your legs, because gravity will work against you when you’re sitting and decrease blood flow. Keep your blood moving back toward the heart by flexing your calf muscles.”
DVT may also cause damage to the veins and valves that allow blood to flow to the heart. “A clot can damage the valves that send blood to your heart and cause them to become leaky,” Callicutt said. “You can end up with postphlebitic syndrome, which includes chronic swellingand ulcers, even years later. Not only is it important to take anti-coagulant medication to treat DVT, but it’s also essential to wear compression garments to prevent swelling and pressure on the skin.”
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