Tag Archives: Cardiovascular Disorders

Straight, No Chaser: Blood Clots in Your Legs – Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT)

When patients talk about blood clots, they’re describing a blockage of a blood vessel somewhere in the body, usually the lower extremities (legs and thighs), the lungs (pulmonary embolus) or the brain. Today we’ll discuss the variety that occurs in the lower extremities, which are generally referred to as deep venous thrombosis (DVTs). In case you’re thinking that a clot in the leg doesn’t sound as bad as a clot in the lungs or the head, you’re correct – until you understand that DVTs break off and travel to other body sites, leading to blockage elsewhere (This is called embolism.).
Your challenge is to appreciate the risks of developing DVTs and the symptoms. Risk factors include the following:

  • Birth control pills or other estrogen use (this combined with cigarette smoking pushes the risk even higher)
  • Cancer
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Family history of blood clots
  • Obesity
  • Prolonged immobilization
  • Recent pelvic or leg fracture
  • Recent surgery (most often the pelvis or lower extremities)
  • Recent travel involving long periods of sitting
  • Certain medical conditions, most notably lupus

Symptoms most commonly are in one leg or the other, and reflect the fact that the vein is being blocked. These include pain, swelling, redness and warmth.
Diagnosis and treatment are relatively straightforward as long as they occur in time (meaning before the clots have broken off). Diagnosis is usually accomplished by an ultrasound of the lower extremities; once discovered, you’ll be placed on blood thinners. It’s important to know that blood thinners prevent the formation of new clots. They do not dissolve existing clots. That’s usually not necessary, as many DVTs simply dissolve. If it doesn’t, DVTs that embolize are life-threatening (more so from the pelvis and thigh than the legs). Unfortunately pulmonary emboli are among the most missed medical diagnoses and causes of death. Try to manage your controllable risk factors, and be aware when you’re dealing with a risk factor that you can’t control (like surgery).
I welcome any questions or comments.
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Straight, No Chaser: The Week In Review

Happy Sunday, everyone. In the midst another all-time best week here, I got to discuss the topics I spend most of my time discussing with patients in the emergency department: high blood pressure, smoking and obesity. What that triad has in common is how they manifest in many different disease presentations. Well, at least now you know. I guess drinking and STDs will have to wait for another time. Here’s your week in review. Feel free to click the underlined topics to access the original posts.
We started the week on Sunday reviewing how the nerve gas sarin, allegedly used against the citizens of Syria, creates death and disease. Someone actually asked me why the victim in the lead picture was wearing shaving cream. That’s not shaving cream, folks. Victims wallow in their own secretions from everywhere, including salivation, excessive tearing, runny nose, diarrhea, urination, vomiting and lung secretions before they die of respiratory failure. We certain wish the best for the people of Syria and the country as a whole.
We spent Monday reviewing high blood pressure (hypertension), also known as the silent killer because yes, it can cause you to drop dead without knowing what happened. Just remember to try not to poison the pump that delivers oxygen and nourishment throughout the body (That would be your heart!). In part two of our hypertension review, we gave you numbers to know for monitoring your blood pressure and cues as to when that high pressure warrants a visit to the ER. I’d suggest you commit a few brain cells to that information. That’s information that could save your life, given the time dependent nature of treating the strokes and heart attacks that result from high blood pressure.
On Tuesday, we began reviewing smoking cessation and the benefits associated with it. We also discussed best practices in achieving smoking cessation. It remains interesting that many more people use the patch to stop (and many do so successfully), but stopping cold turkey remains the most effective way of stopping, for those able to pull it off. Consider the 10 Quick Tips I offered and consider working with your physician on the START method. I know this is a struggle. Over two-thirds of smokers want to stop, and over half attempt to stop every year. I wish you the best if you’re in that group.
On Wednesday, we took a look at obesity in America. Based on the data, it’s clear more people are choosing the pursuit of happiness (in excess) over the pursuit of health. That said, we’re still doing something right, as our life expectancy continues to increase despite approximately two-thirds of us being overweight (although we’re living longer with more disease).
On Thursday, we reviewed the health risks of obesity and introduced you to the caloric equation, which largely determines if you’re gaining or losing weight. It’s actually a pretty simple concept that you might consider learning, because every bit you lose reduces the load on your heart (in particular) and other organs. These relative, incremental amounts do matter.
Friday was a fun day, because we discussed solutions instead of just problems. We talked about how to lose weight the good old-fashioned way, reviewing how to pace yourself, set reasonable expectations and lose healthily. Just remember it’s going to take a lifestyle change, not a fad. The tortoise always did beat the hare. On Friday, we also discussed how to jump-start your metabolism, regardless of age. The Quick Tips I gave you couldn’t be simpler and do make a difference.
On Saturday, we completely switched gears and reviewed the painful topic of hemorrhoids. Don’t forget the self-help tip ‘WASH’, and trust me, your goal is to stay away from the ER or surgeon with these. Deal with them sooner rather than later, before it becomes a pain for everyone involved! Saturday, we returned to smoking – this time of the cigar variety. I had to bring the Surgeon General along to point out the cigar smoking is not a safe alternative to cigarettes. Can you believe a single large cigar contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes? Who knew?
Your comments, concerns and disagreements are welcome. My goal is always to provide you information that you incorporate into making your lives happier and healthier, not to be the ‘health morality police’. As the obesity posts noted, there is too often a crossroads between health and happiness. When you’re younger, you really are investing in your health to secure your future happiness, because as you age, there is a much higher correlation being your health and your happiness. My mental health colleagues will be quick to tell you how the lack of health as you age leads to higher rates of depression and suicide in the elderly. Your goal is to head down the road that offers both health and happiness. And speaking of aging…
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