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Are You at Risk for DVT?

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DVT risk factors

Are You at Risk for DVT?

June 14, 2004

By Rebecca Ostrom for Veins1

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a potentially fatal condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins that accompany arteries. It usually occurs in the legs, although thromboses can potentially occur in any vein.

If you are at risk for DVT, you may be able to take action to prevent it. If you do get a DVT, make sure it is properly treated by your doctor. Most DVTs will disappear with treatment, although there is a risk of recurrence.

Many factors can lead to DVT. Some can be changed by diet and lifestyle, while others are genetic or acquired and may require further treatment. Studies show that about only 2 out of 1,000 people get DVT. So, although many of the risk factors are fairly common, they are not a definite indicator that a person will develop DVT.

Every one of the following risk factors increases a persons chance of developing DVT. The factors are cumulative so the more of these factors an individual has the greater their risk.


  • Age: Those over 40 years old are at increased risk for DVT. The risk increases with age and DVT is more commonly seen after the age of 60.
  • Weight: Obesity is a risk factor for DVT.
  • Immobility: This can range from paralysis to post-accident hospitalization to a few hours on an airplane. DVTs can occur up to two weeks after a long trip.
  • Medications: Birth control and hormone replacement therapy increase the tendency of the blood to clot.
  • Surgery and physical trauma: Surgical procedures or trauma to the hip, knee, or pelvic region, including recent childbirth, can lead to greater clotting tendencies and increased risk.

    Medical conditions: Many diseases and conditions can increase the risk of DVT. Some of these include:

  • Certain congenital heart defects
  • Malignant cancer
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Chronic respiratory failure
  • Stroke
  • Varicose veins
  • Prior case of DVT
  • Hypercoagulability (heightened clotting ability) , which can be acquired or inherited

    Several things can be done to mitigate these risk factors. If you are on a long trip in a plane or a car, move your legs, stretch, shift position frequently, and walk when you are able. This will help keep the blood from pooling and clotting.

    Try to get to a healthy weight if you are overweight. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help protect you against many other diseases and conditions.

    Getting a blood test may also be a good idea. Most hypercoagulability causes can be detected in blood tests.

    If you are at high risk, your doctor may want to put you on medication such as heparin (an anti-clotting medicine) or warfarin (which slows the clotting process).


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