How to Prevent Blood Clots
Social distancing and sheltering-in-place are recognized ways of avoiding COVID-19 infection, but remaining sedentary at home has notable adverse effects as well. In fact, sitting in one place for hours at a time, such as teleworking or watching TV, can be detrimental to your health.
We know that immobility increases your risk of blood clots, both superficial (phlebitis) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If DVTs go undiagnosed, they can lead to serious problems, including a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism, which occurs when the DVT migrates from your leg to the lung.
Vascular surgeon and vein specialist Garth Rosenberg, MD FACS advises that “working the calf muscles by walking or flexing the ankles regularly pushes blood up the leg and through the veins toward the heart. When you are inactive for an extended period of time, blood flow is not maximized and it can precipitate a clot.”
Suggestions to prevent blood clots:
While some blood clots occur in healthy, active people, maintaining an active lifestyle is a key to reducing the risk of these problems. Good hydration also helps the blood flow optimally. When sitting for prolonged periods, try to at least move the legs a bit and consider wearing compression stockings.
When to suspect a blood clot:
Surface blood clots typically cause localized leg tenderness, often at the site of a varicose vein. You may feel a lump, which is slightly red (inflammation) and raised. DVTs commonly can cause leg aches and swelling. Because many patients without DVT still experience swelling, it’s important to note that swelling is most concerning when it is more than you typically experience day-to-day.
If you think you have a blood clot:
Call your doctor immediately. Do not delay care, even in this environment of social distancing. The most effective test to assess your leg and determine if you have a clot is a venous ultrasound. This painless test images the veins inside your leg and can let us know if flow is normal or if there is a clot to treat. Fortunately, phlebitis is a limited condition, which often responds well to anti-inflammatory medication. DVTs, also very effectively managed, often require oral blood thinners for a period of time to stabilize the clot, thereby preventing its growth and movement to the heart or lungs.
The vascular surgeons and staff at Capitol Vein & Laser are available five days a week to answer your questions and assess your legs if you have concerns.
Board certified vascular surgeon Paul McNeill, MD FACS says, “To minimize exposure risk, you can avoid a hospital visit and seek care for suspected blood clots at our office. While a telemedicine visit can be helpful, most times a face-to-face visit allows us to examine your leg and do an ultrasound in the office. This will ensure you have an accurate diagnosis and will give you assurance that you have the best advice.”