Risk factors giving rise to Deep Vein Thrombosis – Blog 2

May 9, 2019

Posted by: Tom Lax


In my last blog, I wrote about how and why blood clotted, before discussing the reason blood clots when it shouldn’t, leading to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

In this blog, the second of three, I will be outlining the risk factors that can make DVT more likely and the signs and symptoms that suggest you should get checked out.

Risk Factors for contracting Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep Vein Thrombosis is not uncommon; about one in a thousand people in the UK suffer from it every year.

Anything that

  • causes injury to your veins;
  • makes blood move slowly; or
  • changes the way platelets work

is likely to lead to an increased risk of DVT.

One of the best known risk factors is long haul flying and the reason this can cause blood clots is simple. If you are sat in a chair for hours on end the blood in your lower legs stops circulating as quickly and “pools”. When your blood isn’t moving, platelets are more likely to start sticking together. If they start sticking together, the chain reaction to form a clot starts.

Likewise, if you undergo surgery or are really unwell, you are likely to spend long periods of time immobile which can have the same effect.

Smoking is a triple problem – it makes platelets more “sticky” and damages your veins and makes your circulation worse. So the blood is more likely to clot because it is moving slower, the platelets are more likely to stick together by mistake and the platelets are more likely to make the mistake of thinking a damaged vein is an injury that needs to be repaired.

If you have a disorder that means that you have too many platelets then it is more likely that your platelets will clot when they don’t need to.

Cancer also increases the likelihood of DVT due to tissue damage and chemicals from the tumour making clotting more likely. To make matters worse, chemotherapy also causes damage to and changes the composition of your blood to make it clot more. Not forgetting that if you have undergone chemotherapy , then you are likely to be feeling worse for wear and more inclined to be sedentary whilst you rest and recover.

Pregnancy, obesity and birth control pills can all make DVT more likely too – either by changing the composition of your blood, impacting your circulation or making it more likely that your veins will become damaged.

It is also worth bearing in mind that if you have had DVT before, you are at increased risk of developing another one.

Avoiding Deep Vein Thrombosis

Once you know the risks, then considering the things you can do to avoid or lessen the chances of sustaining a DVT are the next logical step to look at. Recommendations include:

  • Keeping your blood moving round your body;
  • Getting up to walk around if you are on a flight or lying down for long periods of time;
  • Wear suitable support stockings;
  • Making sure you are hydrated (this thins the blood and keeps your circulation up);
  • Being aware of your family history (blood disorders can be inherited);
  • Avoiding trauma (this is rational and unconscious for most of us).

However, some of the risks simply cannot be avoided and DVT is unfortunately inevitable for some people.

DVT normally causes a heavy ache, pain, swelling and tenderness where it forms (normally the calf area) –  as you would imagine a large unwelcome clot of solid blood might do. This is accompanied by warm skin and redness.

In the case of flying, the symptoms can come on weeks you have landed.

If you suspect you have a DVT then you should seek medical assistance immediately.

Next time…

In my next and last blog on DVT, I will be looking at what makes the condition so dangerous as well the investigations and treatment you should expect if it happens to you.

Tom Lax is an associate solicitor in the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you or a loved one are concerned about the treatment you have received, contact Tom free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4840 or at tomlax@boltburdonkemp.co.uk. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Adult Brain Injury team will contact you. Find out more about the Adult Brain Injury team.

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Posted by: Tom Lax

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