What is it and why does it want to kill me? DTVs

I’m no fan of acronyms in general, but why is this specific one after me?

DVT stands for deep-vein thrombosis, where your blood spontaneously forms a clot inside your vein.

That sounds like something that happens to old people.

It’s something that happens to sedentary people. If your blood isn't moving, the proteins that form clots can become activated and just form a clot.

But then I’ll start moving again, and I’ll be fine.

Yeah, walking is good if you can do it. Because DVTs generally occur in people who are already sick or injured, walking sometimes isn’t an option.

Do DVTs hurt?

They can. The affected area can also swell up, turn red and cause cramping, which are also symptoms of a host of other problems, making it very hard to diagnose. The only definitive way to tell if you have a DVT is with an ultrasound or other imaging technique.

I still don’t see why these should scare me.

Besides adding additional discomfort to whatever problem is ailing you, DVTs can sometimes turn into pulmonary embolisms. A DVT is a thrombus, a blood clot stuck to the wall of a blood vessel. An embolus is where a thrombus breaks off from its wall and floats around through the blood. Pulmonary refers to the heart-lung system, so a pulmonary embolism is where you get one of those free-floating clots in the lungs.

Okay…

You have a wide variety of different sized blood vessels. Veins where DVTs form are usually very large, whereas the vessels in your lungs are incredibly tiny. If you get a clot from a big vein in your lungs, it’s going to get stuck, cut off blood flow to your lungs, and thus your body. That’s not so good.

Yeah. How do I prevent these things?

If you’re in the hospital you might be put on anticoagulants, which thin the blood and prevent clots. If you’re an otherwise healthy individual, you really only have to worry about these things if you’re on a long plane flight. In that case, try to get up every couple hours and walk around, or wear compression socks to keep your blood flowing.

What’s your bias?

I’ve fortunately never had a DVT, but I’ve done some research where they’re a major complication.