March is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Month. Therefore, it’s a good time to familiarize yourself with the causes, symptoms and treatments for DVT. A recent survey shows that most people know little to nothing about DVT.
It is, nevertheless, important for caregivers to the elderly to know the symptoms of DVT because early diagnosis and treatment are critical to a full recovery.
DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside the body, usually a leg. Typically the person affected will feel pain and see swelling in that leg, possibly in both legs. There is sometimes discoloration of the skin near the clot.
DVT is not deadly by itself, but it demands immediate treatment to prevent it from enlarging. One risk with DVT is that the clot may break apart and a smaller clot may move to the lungs, causing pulmonary embolism.
What Causes Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Those over 60 are definitely at a higher risk for DVT. The more sedentary the senior, the higher the risk of clotting. That’s why blood clots are so common in hospital settings. Both surgery and bed rest increase the risks of clotting.
Smoking and obesity also raise an individual’s risk of developing DVT. A tendency toward blood clots may run in families, but it’s important to know that DVT can develop without warning in someone with no family history of the condition.
How Is DVT Treated?
Medications called “blood thinners” or anti-coagulants are the first line of defense against DVT. Senior care experts warn that these medications do not bust up a clot. They do prevent the clot from getting bigger. Blood thinners also prevent new clots from forming.
With the use of blood thinners, the patient’s body will eventually absorb the clot. This can take weeks or months, but the pain and swelling usually subside shortly after treatment begins.
If your parent or grandparent has already had a blood clot, he or she may need to take a blood thinner on a maintenance basis to prevent it from happening again. If a doctor has prescribed a blood thinner, make sure your loved one is taking it as prescribed. Professional senior care aides can help by making sure the pill boxes are filled and making sure your parent takes all medications at the right time of day.
How Can You Keep Your Senior DVT Free?
The best way to keep your senior from developing deep vein thrombosis is to make sure she keeps moving. Long road trips in a car with no breaks are dangerous, especially to the elderly. Long flights are the same. Basically, any time an individual sits or lies down for too long, he or she is at risk for DVT.
If your senior is obese, encourage weight loss via a healthy diet and an increase in exercise. Both weight and inactivity cause DVT. And, if your senior smokes, it’s a good idea to quit or at least reduce the number of cigarettes a day.
To conclude, DVT is a potentially painful condition with possible complications. However, when diagnosed early, the patient is likely to make a full recovery if she complies with doctor’s recommendations. Encourage your senior to stay physically active and maintain a healthy weight to prevent DVT from occurring in the first place.