Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body mostly lower leg (Calf muscle) or thigh but can also occur in arms. It can occur at any age or fitness level. The main risk factors of DVT include:
- Sitting for too long
- Major Surgery particularly abdomen, hip, knee or pelvis area
- Injury to a vein caused by a broken bone or muscle injury
- Trauma to the body that resulted in bruise or swelling
- The family history of blood clots
In big cities like Karachi, people on average spend 2-3 hours commuting on a daily basis. Those who work a desk job, bus drivers, taxi drivers, Uber/Careem drivers, pilots, etc. have a much higher risk of developing a blood clot. If you have been affected by any of the risk factors above and experience:
- Swelling of Leg or arm
- Leg pain or cramps
- Redness of skin
- Leg or arm warm to touch
Then you might need to get checked for blood clots. DVT itself is not life-threatening but cause severe discomfort. However, there are other complications from DVT that can be fatal. Sometimes a clot can develop in an artery called arterial thrombosis, blocking blood flow to brain or heart causing a heart attack or stroke. If the clot runs lose, it can travel through the bloodstream and can end up in your lungs creating a blockage called Pulmonary Embolism (PE) which can kill you within a couple of days if left untreated. Symptoms of PE include:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain/discomfort
- A cough
- Lightheadedness or fainting
It is highly recommended that you visit a doctor if you experience the above symptoms. A dear friend who had minor knee surgery and was bedridden for a couple of days had developed a DVT that transcends into PE, but luckily he was diagnosed in time and lived to tell the tale. However, my maternal uncle was not as lucky as he succumbed to PE a month and a half back. He was involved in a small accident and got his hand fractured. It remained in the cast for nearly two months restricting his arm movement, and as soon the cast was removed he developed all the symptoms of PE which he didn’t disclose to anyone and within two days of removing his cast he expired. Doctors believed that the reason for his death is pulmonary embolism aka PE. Both of these individuals were perfectly healthy with physically active lifestyle and no history of any heart or blood disease. The cases prompted me to research the subject, and it turns out that cases of DVT and PE are far more common than I thought. Celebrities like Tennis star Serena Williams to American Racer Brian Vickers are among the list of famous people who suffered from the condition.
Professional/commercial drivers around the world are educated on the impacts on the health of long distance/long hours of traveling, however, no such program exists in Pakistan. According to doctors, not the commercial drivers, everyone who drives for more than 2-3 hours a day, travel by air or had a desk job runs a risk of developing a blood clot.
Here are few tips that can help you reduce the risk of blood clots:
- Stay hydrated, drink plenty of fluids. Staying well hydrated keeps blood reasonably thin and ensures smoother blood flow through veins.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes, avoid socks with a tight elastic band that restricts blood flow to your calves.
- Get out of your vehicle and walk after every 2-3 hours of driving.
- Sometimes getting out of the car is not possible for an extended period, in that case, flex your feet to avoid blood clots. Do toe curls or move your ankles in the circle for a few seconds. Tightening or releasing your leg muscles also help.
- If you need to drive longer or about to go on a long-haul flight, do wear compression stockings; these are readily available at medical stores/pharmacies and are highly effective in preventing blood clots.
Blood clots are a recurring thing if you have suffered from DVT in the past and recovered you still are at risk. Take precautions and stay safe.