Diabetes and the Risk of Blood Clots

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DVT deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots is a known complication of surgery, but recent research indicates that people with diabetes may be at higher risk for this life-threatening condition than non-diabetics.

*What the diabetes patient should know about DVT
Deep vein thrombosis or DVT is a serious and life-threatening condition in which blood clots develop in the deep veins of the legs, thighs, or pelvis. Blood clots can occur anywhere in the body, but people with diabetes have a number of factors that increase the risk of DVT.

The primary risk factors for DVT are:
*Age: People over 60 are at greater risk.
*Recent major surgery: Anyone who has an operation that requires him to be in bed for a long period or seriously limits his activity is at high risk for DVT.
*Poor circulation: Lack of adequate circulation in the deep veins can lead to a blood clot.
*Obesity: Being significantly overweight affects your circulation and your activity levels.
*Long airline flights: The enforced inactivity of sitting in one position during a long flight can bring on a DVT.
*Oral contraceptives
*Some types of cancer

*DVT signs for the diabetes patient to know
DVT may occur without obvious symptoms, but there are some signs that you should know. Especially if you have one of the risk factors noticed above, such as a recent surgery or long plane trip, you should contact your doctor if you notice:
*Pain, tenderness, or sudden swelling in one leg
*Discolored or visibly large veins
*Skin that is warm to the touch

Get medical help immediately if you experience any of the following:
*Sharp chest pain
*Shortness of breath
*Excessive sweating
*Rapid pulse
*Coughing up blood
*Dizziness or fainting

Although DVT can be difficult to diagnose, your doctor may order one or more imaging tests to identify signs of the condition. Among these are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Doppler ultrasound, and venography.

*DVT prevention for the diabetes patient
DVT is treatable with one of two different types of medication: anticoagulants (blood thinning drugs) and thrombolytics (which dissolve clots). DVT can also be treated with surgery. However, each treatment comes with its own side effects and risks. People with diabetes and those at high risk for DVT should consider taking preventive measures in order to keep from developing clots in the first place.
*One way to prevent DVT is simply to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As a patient with diabetes, you will benefit in many ways from adopting a program of regular physical activity and a healthy diet. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight should help keep many of your diabetes symptoms under control in addition to the preventive benefits for DVT.
*If you smoke, quit and avoid secondhand smoke.
*Also try to avoid extended periods of airplane travel. If you must take a long flight, ask your health care provider for some exercises you can do in your seat that may reduce your risk. Just standing up and stretching every so often and "pumping" your ankles vigorously can help.
*If you are planning surgery or an extended hospital stay, ask your physician about appropriate precautions. He may prescribe anticoagulant medications for a few days after surgery as well as recommending exercises you can do in bed or while sitting. Many patients also wear TED stockings for several days to several weeks after surgery to help stimulate circulation and prevent blood pooling. (TED is a trade name for anti-embolism stockings, but the names "TED hose," "TED stockings," or just "TEDs" have become common nicknames for all brands of these medical garments.)

As a diabetes patient, you are likely already used to looking out for complications, some serious, some less so. DVT can be hard to pinpoint, as it can develop almost without warning but knowing you are more at risk means you can educate yourself on what to look for. With a little extra vigilance, you can reduce your chance of developing a life-threatening DVT.

More about this author: Robin Mayhall

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