In part 1 of this 3 part series on blood clots, we learned the basics of how our coagulation system works. We also learned that there are some very common things such as diabetes, varicose veins, increasing age, obesity, stasis and others that tend to unbalance this system, making it prone to blood clot formation.
Pulmonary Embolus is Life Threatening
One of the worst blood clots one can have is one that forms in the Deep Venous System. These are the large and deep veins in the lower extremities and groin and pelvis. This is the venous superhighway—the interstate. 80% of the blood returning from the lower extremities returns via this route. The name given to clots formed here is deep venous thrombosis or DVT.
If some of this DVT breaks off, it travels up the superhighway to the lungs and heart. Once in motion the clot is called an embolus. The main stop is the pulmonary arteries [lung arteries], thus the name pulmonary embolus [PE]. Unfortunately, this is a life threatening event.
Varicose Veins and the Superficial Venous System
The Superficial Venous System is where varicose veins of all types live. This system is not immune to clot formation. Clots here generally cause symptoms of pain, swelling, redness and are not life threatening, unless the clot propagates to where this system joins the Deep System. If such a clot can get to the superhighway, then it too can become dangerous.
The 3 major factors responsible for venous thrombosis [clot] were published over 100 years ago by a physician name Virchow and these are true today:
- Blood vessel wall damage
- Vascular stasis
- Changes in coagulability. These are true today.
What You Need to Know to Prevent Blood Clots
So now we can set up a plan for prevention, since we will assume that nobody wants a blood clot. These are examples of how you can help yourself prevent blood clots:
Step 1- Recognize if you are at risk—see the list of factors from the last article
Step 2- Consider whether your future actions are going to result in blood vessel wall damage, changes in coagulability, or vascular stasis.
Step 3- Take steps to remedy the things you can control.
Step 4- Discuss your situation with your physician so as to minimize the possibility of clot formation considering your situation.
Additional Ways to Prevent Blood Clots
The risks we can control to some degree are stasis, oral contraceptives, hormonal supplementation, hyperlipidemia, varicose veins, congestive heart failure, dehydration, IV drug use, and muscle pump activation. For example, if taking a long trip on plane or car one could make sure of adequate hydration, activate the muscle pump periodically in the sitting position, get up and walk about every 1-2 hours.
Visit with your physician to make sure your congestive failure or varicose veins are under proper control. Wear proper fitted graduated compression hose to prevent both blood clot development and symptoms. Consider stopping birth control medication prior to sclerotherapy. Consider losing weight if you are overweight.
In Part 3 of this series, we will discuss what to do if you suspect you may have a clot.
Visit Five Star Vein Institute to learn if you are at risk for blood clots. Go to www.fivestarvein.com and find out how to schedule your free vein consultation with Dr. Robert Ruess and staff to better understand your venous health diagnosis and treatment options.