The Hazards of Computer Work: Blood Clots in the Legs
Authors who sit for extended periods of time, pay attention. The following information could save your life. Those who sit for extended periods of time may be at risk of forming blood clots in their veins, otherwise known as “Deep Vein Thrombosis” (DVT).
These clots are potentially deadly because they can dislodge from veins, pass into the lungs, disrupt blood flow, and create life-threatening changes in heart and lung blood pressures.
Sadly, about half of the time, there’s no outward sign of DVTs. But when there are signs, patients usually complain of calf pain and swelling. They may also have pain on squeezing the leg or when they abruptly bend the ankle upward (this is known as Homan’s sign).
Several factors in addition to the sedentary lifestyle predispose to clots. One factor is family history. Another is the use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. Still another is smoking. Additional factors include trauma (including venous catheter trauma), advanced age, cancer, elevated platelet counts, immobility or paralysis of the area (such as due to casting), plane travel, surgery, pregnancy, heart failure, obesity, or a personal history of blood clots.
One diagnostic test for DVT is an ultrasound scan called a “Venous Doppler” study. Another test measures blood levels of “D-dimer,” which is a natural clot-dissolver found in the blood stream in elevated levels in case of DVT.
If you test positive for a blood clot, your doctor will most likely admit you to the hospital for and start you on clot busters or blood thinners. Sometimes, you might even have a “filter” inserted into the large vein in your abdomen (the vena cava) to trap clots that try to travel upstream to your lungs.
Now, let’s talk about the most important thing: blood clot prevention. First and foremost, make positive lifestyle changes. Quit smoking, get moving, and lose weight (if you need help with weight loss, check out my book, The Eden Diet via www.TheEdenDiet.com).
If you sit for prolonged periods of time, wear thigh-high compression hose. They are usually available at your local hospital supply store. And do “ankle-pumps,” where you bend your ankles up and down to get the blood flowing more readily in your legs.
Depending on your overall risk factor profile, you may be prescribed a medication like aspirin, warfarin, heparin, or others to either prevent or help dissolve blood clots. If you’re on one of these medicines, make sure you understand what foods and medicines to avoid. Some ingested substances can increase your tendency to clot, while others, like vitamin E and fish oil, garlic, ginger, and ginseng, increase your tendency to bleed excessively, especially if you are on warfarin.
As in many other areas of medicine—and life, in general—when it comes to blood clots, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Get moving to keep your blood flowing properly, watch your weight and your diet, and speak with your doctor to learn more about your risk factors.