Set aside your March Madness brackets for a time this month to consider your vein health. March is Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month so it’s the perfect time to brush up on this common and often dangerous condition.

“People tend to underestimate the importance of vein health,” said Anil Kumar, MD, FAAC, RPVI, Medical Director of the Vein Center at Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott Valley. “They may dismiss vein issues as cosmetic, rather than a health problem.”

While the exact number with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is unknown, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates as many as 900,000 people could be affected each year in the United States. Among people who experience DVT, half will have long-term complications because of the condition.

DVT is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein of the leg, which can be caused by lack of exercise, pregnancy, smoking, oral contraceptives, age, obesity, family history and more. No matter the cause, these blood clots can obstruct blood flow and lead to other complications, including:

  • Pulmonary Embolism – This happens when a blood clot breaks free, travels through the bloodstream and eventually becomes lodged in a vessel of the lungs. The blood clot in the lungs will restrict blood flow, causing chest pain and breathing difficulties.
  • Post-Thrombotic Syndrome – Blood clots can damage the valves of the veins that control the direction of blood flow in the body. This can lead to pain and swelling as fluid leaks from the veins and pools in the extremities.

What are the signs and symptoms of DVT? The most frequent is swelling in the affected leg. Cramping or soreness that begins in the calf is also a common symptom. Some people experience a feeling of warmth in the affected leg as well as red or discolored skin on the leg.

“There are ways to lower your risk for DVT,” Dr. Kumar said. “If you’re in a situation – whether that’s your job or travel – that requires you to sit for long periods, it’s important to move around every two to three hours.”

Dr. Kumar also recommends doing leg lifts, flexes and bends while you are sitting. Loose-fitting clothing as well as compression stockings are excellent ways to reduce the risk for DVT.

“Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise are also key,” he said. “Both of these should be monitored by your physician and based on your individual risk for DVT.”

For more information about DVT, talk to your primary care physician or call YRMC’s Vein Center at (928) 759-5890. The Vein Center at YRMC is located at the Del E. Webb Outpatient Center, 3262 North Windsong Drive in Prescott Valley.