According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated that approximately 900,000 individuals are affected by Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) annually, breaking down to an astounding 1 to 2 people out of every 1,000 in the United States per year. Deep Vein Thrombosis is a condition that occurs when blood clots form within one of the deep veins throughout the body. For many individuals, these blood clots begin forming in the legs. The formation of a blood clot may be associated with symptoms such as swelling in the extremities, pain, discoloration, or even heat in the affected area. However, blood clots can just as easily form without any symptoms showing at all. Because one of the major complications associated with DVT is the risk of developing a pulmonary embolism, ultimately leading to death, it’s important to understand the many risk factors that are linked to the potential development of DVT.
Inherited Risk Factors
Overall, DVT develops when blood is prevented from circulating normally throughout the body, leading to clots in the veins. Many experts believe there is a genetic link to DVT and some individuals inherit a disorder where blood more easily clots—causing overarching issues with circulation and ultimately, the development of DVT. The CDC estimates that anywhere from 5% to 8% of the population in the United States possesses a genetic trait that increases their risk of developing DVT over time.
Risk Factors Related to Underlying Health Conditions
For these individuals with a family history of DVT, the development of the condition seems to increase further when underlying health issues are present. Some experts believe that certain types of cancer increase the chances of blood clotting and can more easily lead to the development of DVT over time. Treatments used to fight cancer may also be responsible for certain individuals developing DVT. Similarly, those individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease may be at higher risk for developing the condition. Those with known conditions that affect the heart, or those that suffer from heart failure may also be at an increased risk as the heart struggles to move blood effectively throughout the body.
Risk Factors Associated with Hormonal Fluctuation
Experts have long agreed that the risk of developing DVT increases significantly in periods of severe hormonal fluctuation in the body. The condition is particularly prevalent amongst women during pregnancy when blood flow and overall pressure to areas such as the legs and pelvis are increased and hormones are fluctuating constantly to accommodate the growing baby. It’s not uncommon for the risk for developing DVT to remain heightened for up to six weeks post-pregnancy. Similarly, many women who are regularly taking birth control pills or require hormone replacement therapy are often warned of the increased risk of DVT. While these treatments can deliver the desired results in the way of preventing unwanted pregnancy, they also tend to increase the overall risk of blood clotting and pooling in the veins.
Risk Factors with Medical Links
Individuals who require surgery related to venous insufficiencies are considered high risk for the development of DVT. Additionally, previous injuries to veins can decrease overall efficient blood flow. The use of general anesthesia for any surgery comes with the potential of vein dilation ultimately increasing the risk for the development of clots or blood pooling in the veins post-surgery. Many patients who have had pacemakers placed as well as vein catheters may experience a decrease in blood flow over time which works to irritate the walls of the blood vessel and cause constriction which can lead to clotting.
Risk Factors Associated with Lifestyle
While it’s long been known that smoking is detrimental to a person’s health, it’s also a risk factor in the development of DVT. Smoking affects blood circulation and is pointed to as a direct link to DVT over time. Similarly, those who do not adhere to a regular exercise routine and diet and are considered clinically overweight or obese are more at risk for the condition as well. Excess weight puts increased pressure on the veins as they work harder than normal to move blood throughout the body. This strain can lead to clotting and pooling in the long run. Those individuals who are in jobs that require them to sit for a long period of time may also be at a heightened risk for developing the condition. The risk applies to those who also drive or fly for extended periods of time. Without regular contraction, leg muscles won’t efficiently circulate blood up towards the heart, and clots can more easily form within the veins.
Risk Factors Linked to Physical Traits
Many physicians believe that in general, those individuals over 60 years old are at a naturally higher risk for DVT. There have been some links between men who are tall appearing to be a higher risk as well, however, tall women do not seem to be associated with the same heightened risk.