What New Truck Drivers Need To Know About Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT):
In short, deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot formed in one of your deep veins, usually in the legs. It often occurs without symptoms.
If the blood clot breaks free (pulmonary embolism), it can travel through your body and lodging in your lungs, blocking arteries, and could kill you.
The main risk factor for DVT in truck drivers is prolonged periods of sitting down. Older age, smoking, and obesity can help to exacerbate the risk.
Staying active, maintaining you ideal body weight, and understanding your risk factors will help prevent DVT and pulmonary embolisms.
The body will dissolve most blood clots on it's own, over time.
Currently, while extended periods of sitting can contribute to the development of DVT or a pulmonary embolism, the courts have been hit-or-miss in cases determining whether the conditions will be covered under workman's comp claims, though some cases have settled out-of-court. Disability benefit claims are a separate process.
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There are both deep and superficial veins in your arms and legs. Superficial veins are the small veins just below the surface of the skin. Deep veins are kept deep in the muscles of your arms and legs.
Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins, usually in the legs. DVT usually forms in the lower leg or thigh.
Deep blood clots alone are not dangerous, but become dangerous when they break off, as they can travel through your body, and cause serious complications that could even lead to death.
How Deep Vein Thrombosis Develops Medical Course
Sportscaster Bonnie Bernstein and E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork demonstrate how DVT develops the risk factors to look out for and treatment options
Many truck drivers, owing to certain aspects of the lifestyle, are at particular risk for deep vein thrombosis caused by:
- Prolonged periods of sitting
- Older age
The one thing that all truck drivers have in common is that they tend to sit for long periods of time while driving.
- Other types of immobility such as prolonged hospitalization
- Increased estrogen such as hormone therapies or birth control pills or patches.
- Cancer & chemotherapy
- Inflammatory disorders
- Heart failure
- Previous blood clots
- A family history of blood clots
- Other clotting disorders, acquired or inherited
- Varicose veins
- Surgery or other trauma such as bone fractures, catheter in a big vein, or major surgery especially in the abdominal, groinal, hip, or knee areas.
Get Out & Walk Around:
Stop every few hours or so, get out of the truck, and walk around for a bit. Stretch the legs, especially your calves, and get some kind of regular exercise.
If You Can't Get Out Of The Truck & Walk Around:
You can do simple exercises while seated to get the blood flowing. Bend or straighten your feet, legs, and toes, or press the balls of your feet hard against the floor every so often.
Stay Healthy & Maintain An Ideal Body Weight:
Along with exercise, drink plenty of fluids and practice healthy eating habits. Overweight and obese individuals have a higher risk of developing DVT.
Know Your Risk Factors & Your Family History:
See above for risk factors, and find out if there is a history of blood clots/DVT in your family, as that has been shown to increase your risk of developing it.
Smoking has been shown to increase the risk of blood clots. Quitting smoking obviously has plenty of other health benefits, as well.
Drink Fluids, Wear Loose Clothing:
Drink plenty of fluids (preferably water, avoid caffeine when possible), and wear loose, comfortable clothing. Avoid short, tight, socks, if you can.
Use Compression Stockings:
If you are at an increased risk for deep vein thrombosis, use compression stockings to help prevent DVT.
Unfortunately, noticeable symptoms only manifest in about half of people with deep vein thrombosis.
Consult with your doctor if these symptoms apply:
- Most commonly, swelling in the leg, especially if it's only one leg that is affected.
- Swollen area is painful and warm. May feel like a cramp.
- Symptoms don't fade, get worse over time.
- Leg cramps, starting in the calf, mostly at night.
If the blood clot breaks free, it causes a DVT complication called a pulmonary embolism.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these warning signs:
- Sudden, unexplained, shortness of breath.
- Chest pain that gets worse when you breathe or cough.
- Fainting, dizziness, lightheadedness.
- Coughing up blood.
- Rapid pulse/heart rate/breathing.
DVT can be either treated immediately or managed over time, depending on it's severity. Most people can be treated for DVT as an outpatient.
Blood Thinners (anticoagulants):
Blood thinners are the treatment of choice whenever possible. They won't break up existing clots, but will decrease your body's ability to clot while preventing new clots from forming and existing clots from getting larger.
Blood thinners may be injected, in pill form, or a combination of both.
Warfarin and heparin are the two most commonly used blood thinners used to treat DVT. Warfarin is given in pill form. Heparin is given as an injection or through an IV tube.
Blood thinners used as treatment for DVT will usually be prescribed for anywhere from 3-12 months.
Taking blood thinners will usually mean getting regular blood tests to measure the body's ability to clot.
The most common side effect of blood thinners is bleeding, which can happen internally and be life-threatening.
Vena Cava Filters:
A filter inserted directly into a large vein in your abdomen, catches loose blood clots to prevent them from lodging in your lungs.
Used if you can't take blood thinners, or if they are not working.
Filters will also not stop new clots from forming.
Delivered through intravenous (IV) lines, normally only used in serious, life-threatening situations.
Used to break up clots, and may be administered through a catheter injected directly into the clot.
Very powerful anti-clotting medication that can cause serious bleeding, so only used if absolutely necessary.
Also used as a preventive measure, compression stockings can help reduce swelling from deep vein thrombosis.
Worn from the arch of the foot to just above or below the knee, they are tight at the ankle and become looser as they go up the leg.
The gentle pressure on your lower legs from the stockings will help reduce the chance of blood pooling and clotting.
- Support Pantyhose: Offer the least amount of pressure to the legs.
- Over-The-Counter Compression Hose: Offering a bit more pressure, sold in pharmacies and medical supply stores.
- Prescription-Strength Compression Hose: Offer the greatest amount of pressure. Also sold in pharmacies and medical supply stores, but require specialized fitting expertise.
Used in rare cases, surgery may be required to remove a dangerous clot.
Thrombectomy removes a blood clot in a patient with DVT.
Embolectomy is the removal of a blockage in the lungs caused by a pulmonary embolism.