What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition where a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins of the body – usually in the legs.
It can cause pain and swelling in the area of the clot and potentially even more-serious complications like a pulmonary embolism, which is the blockage of an artery in the lung.
Some of the most common causes of DVT are injuries, surgeries, sitting for extended periods of time, or taking medications that increase the chance of blood clots. The most common symptom is pain and swelling at the site of the clot, but it is possible to have DVT with no symptoms at all.
What Causes Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis is estimated to affect up to 900,000 people in the United States each year. Any condition that affects circulation, such as smoking, dehydration, and obesity can increase a person’s chances for developing DVT. Beyond these, there are a number of other risk factors for developing DVT:
- Inactivity: Sitting or lying down for an extended period of time without moving your legs can cause blood to pool, which increases the likelihood of a clot forming. This inactivity can be the result of being immobilized after surgery or even just sitting on an airplane for a long flight.
- Damage to blood vessels: Damaged blood vessels can narrow or even become blocked, increasing the chances of a clot. This damage can occur during a traumatic injury to the area or during surgery.
- Medical conditions: A number of medical conditions increase the likelihood of developing blood clots. These include cancer, heart or lung disease, hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, thrombophilia, and antiphospholipid syndrome.
- Pregnancy: Women are at an increased risk for blood clots during pregnancy for a few reasons. First, the level of blood-clotting proteins in a woman’s blood increases during pregnancy, while anti-clotting protein levels decrease. The enlarged uterus is also responsible for putting added pressure on the blood vessels, negatively affecting blood circulation in the legs.
- Hormonal birth control: Birth control pills are designed to alter hormone levels in a way that mimics pregnancy. Because of this, they create the same increase in clotting factor and decrease in anti-clotting proteins that the body experiences during a real pregnancy.
- Age: As we age, our blood vessels become less flexible, affecting circulation. For this reason, people over the age of 60 are at an increased risk for blood clots.
How is Deep Vein Thrombosis Treated?
Deep vein thrombosis is a serious medical condition. If you suspect that you might be suffering from DVT, it is important to talk to a medical professional as soon as possible. There are a number of ways to treat or manage DVT:
- Blood thinners: Blood thinners help keep new clots from forming and existing clots from getting larger. Depending on the medication, these are either given intravenously or taken in tablet form. Patients will generally be on blood thinners for at least three months, but this can vary depending on their individual circumstances. One thing to note is that while blood thinners can help prevent new clots, they don’t break up existing ones, so additional measures may be taken to address those.
- Clot busters: Also known as thrombolytic therapy, clot busting medication is given intravenously to break up existing blood clots. They are generally only used in severe cases.
- Filter: An inferior vena cava filter doesn’t keep blood clots from forming, but it is designed to catch them before they reach the heart or lungs. These filters can be put in permanently or removed after the risk of clot goes down.
- Surgery: Called a thrombectomy, surgical removal of a blood clot is sometimes performed in severe cases.
- Compression socks: Compression socks are designed to improve circulation by helping to prevent blood pooling and swelling. This can help prevent clots from forming in the first place or reduce the chances that new clots will form.
The Role of Compression in Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment
One of the main causes of deep vein thrombosis is blood pooling in the legs due to poor circulation. Compression socks are designed to prevent this pooling from happening by applying graduated pressure on the legs to improve blood flow. By doing so, they can reduce the likelihood of DVT. They can be used to prevent DVT before it occurs or follow other DVT treatments to prevent further complications or recurrence.
Compression apparel has different levels of pressure designed for different needs. The pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). There are four main levels:
- Mild compression: 8-15 mmHg
- Medium compression: 15-20 mmHg
- Firm compression: 20-30 mmHg
- Extra Firm Compression: 30-40 mmHg
Compression socks and stockings have been shown to reduce the likelihood of deep vein thrombosis in people with the risk factors described above. A doctor will be able to help you choose the best compression apparel option for you, but mild to medium compression is typically indicated for prevention.
For these reasons, compression sleeves and gloves and more constrictive wrist braces may be used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. To help you find the right products, we’ve compiled a lot of the best compression products for treating carpal tunnel syndrome.
While compression socks are widely used following the occurrence of deep vein thrombosis, there isn’t a consensus about the necessity of doing so or the ideal duration. Some studies have challenged the old standard of wearing compression socks for two years following deep vein thrombosis, saying that such a long period of treatment isn’t necessary. Other studies have questioned entirely the effectiveness of compression socks at preventing complications following deep vein thrombosis.
Still, other studies suggest that immediate use of compression socks does in fact significantly reduce the chances of complications. There is, however, a fairly wide agreement that compression socks can reduce the pain that some people experience after having deep vein thrombosis as well as help mitigate other symptoms.
It is best to speak with a doctor to determine the best option for your particular circumstances.
How to Choose the Best Compression Wear
People looking to use compression socks as part of treatment following deep vein thrombosis will likely be guided by a doctor, who will suggest a type and level of pressure. Compression socks with pressure above 20-30 mmHg typically require a prescription. It is likely that you will need higher pressure socks when using them for treatment.
If you’re interested in using compression socks for preventative reasons, a lower mmHg level will be effective. While you can find this type of compression socks or stockings without prescription, it is still always advisable to speak with a medical professional before starting a compression sock regime.
Launched in 2016, SB Sox is a fairly new company. However, in that short time, they’ve made a huge impact in the compression socks market. These 20-30 mmHg graduated compression socks offer the right amount of pressure to help prevent DVT before it occurs or sooth your legs following treatment. They come in four different sizes based on shoe size and calf circumference and are topped with a no-slip cuff to ensure comfort throughout the entire day. With 16 unique colors and patterns, these socks are a wonderful choice for both men and women looking for compression socks that fit their lifestyle while offering excellent support.
Price: $7.85 – $16.99
For those looking for mild but effective compression to keep you legs healthy, CHARMKING’s 15-20 mmHg compression socks are an excellent choice. Their light but effective compression is perfect for daily use for those who work sedentary jobs or have any of the other risk factors for DVT described above. Anyone from flight attendants to pregnant women can benefit from these reliable and comfortable socks. CHARMKING offers a wide variety of colors and patterns. With a low price for three pairs, these socks are great for everyday use by both men and women.
Price: $28.98 – $31.95
JOBST is a reliable name in compression and their knee high closed toe compression socks do not disappoint. These 30-40 mmHg compression socks offer medical grade compression without a prescription. These socks come in six different sizes based on ankle and calf measurements, making them effective for legs of all sizes. Their soft spandex yarn and reinforced toe make them comfortable enough for all day use and durable enough to last for years to come. For anyone who needs serious and consistent compression, these socks are a wonderful choice