Stay Alert for These Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis
With National Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week coming up on March 11 through 17, we take some time to educate you on the role of pulmonary rehabilitation to enhance the quality of life for those with lung and other diseases. Here at Pathways Home Health and Hospice, we see a lot of individuals in hospice that suffer from end-stage lung disease in San Francisco. Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, can travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing a blockage called pulmonary embolism (PE).
Unfortunately, venous thromboembolism, including deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, is a major contributor to morbidity and mortality among elderly patients, according to the NIH. Both Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism (DVT/PE) are often under-diagnosed and can cause serious yet preventable illnesses and disabilities, and even death. In a nutshell, deep vein thrombosis happens when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, typically in the lower leg, thigh, pelvis and even arm.
If the vein swells, thrombophlebitis is the condition that can develop. A deep vein thrombosis can break loose and cause a serious problem in the lung, referred to as a pulmonary embolism.
If caught early, DVT can be treated. It’s important to know what to look for in terms of symptoms in your loved one.
Symptoms to Be on the Lookout For
Deep vein thrombosis comes with many signs and symptoms that can alert you to potential danger. WebMD says cause for concern includes:
- Swelling in one or both legs
- Change in color of one leg to blue or purple
- Pain or tenderness in one or both legs
- Warm skin on leg
- Red or discolored skin on leg
- Visible veins
- Tired legs
These symptoms can either come on suddenly or develop slowly over time. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all. About one half of all people with DVTs have no recognizable symptoms, says the Vascular Disease Foundation.
The danger arises when a blood clot breaks free with the potential to travel to your lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism. This can be deadly and you may not even see any warning signs.
However, the warning signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism are a bit different from DVT, and include:
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Chest pain or discomfort that gets worse when you take a deep breath or cough
- Feeling lightheaded or fainting
- Rapid pulse
- Coughing up blood
- Feelings of apprehension
- Profuse sweating
There are many things that can cause the above, including slow blood flow through a deep vein, tendency for quick blood clotting, and irritation or inflammation of the vein’s inner lining.
Some factors can put patients at an increased risk for DVT. Those risk factors, according to the CDC, include:
- Injury to a vein due to fractures, muscle injuries and major surgeries
- Slow blood flow due to bed confinement, limited movement due to cast, long-term sitting or crossing of legs, and paralysis
- Increased estrogen brought on by birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and pregnancy
- Chronic medical illnesses, such as heart disease, lung disease and Crohn’s Disease
- Previous DVT or PE
- Family history
- Age (the older you are, the more at risk you are)
- Catheter placed in a central vein
- Clotting disorders
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent or lessen the risk of DVT. It can be tough for those in hospice or those who are home bound, simply due to the inability to move around on a regular basis. Often times, hospice patients are confined to a bed and can’t even get up to walk. However, your hospice care team knows how to deal with possible DVTs and PEs and can suggest ways to lower the risk even in bed-bound patients, such as through anti-coagulant medication as well as physical therapy.
Here are some general tips for prevention:
- Move around as soon as possible after long-term bed confinement, particularly after an illness or surgery.
- Wear compression stockings.
- Take medication such as anti-coagulants
- Exercise legs while sitting by raising and lowering heels while keeping toes on floor, or tightening and releasing leg muscles.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Follow doctor’s recommendations based on individual risk factors.
It’s important to note that anti-coagulants can stop clots from getting bigger and prevent new ones from forming, but they do not break up existing clots. Your body’s natural healing process will have to take care of dissolving existing clots, provided you take the above suggestions, such as getting enough exercise.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
For more information on how our hospice and home health care teams can help your loved one avoid DVT, please contact us at 888-755-7855. Pathways Home Health and Hospice can alert you to the signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis so you can be educated and proactive on this important topic. Remember, National Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week is March 11 through 17!