By Dr. Boris Bergus, M.D., R.V.S.
As we age, our circulation system can lose efficiency, causing a variety of problematic conditions. One such problem is that of undesired clots in the legs. Although clotting is an important safeguard from injury, an unexpected clot can cause pain and swelling and can often be the precursor to a more serious health condition.
According to statistics, over 2 million Americans develop blood clots per year. In general, clots are more common in veins than in arteries and they are most likely to appear in the veins of the legs due to the effects of gravity. When blood pools in the leg’s superficial veins, it is generally minor and is commonly referred to as varicose veins. Clots in the deeper veins are of much more concern. The common term for this type of clot is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
Some of the symptoms that point to DVT are tenderness and a general heaviness in the lower leg. The calf area may also swell and feel warm. In approximately 30 percent of these cases there are no obvious symptoms.
In addition to the discomfort, there is also a concern that the clot can grow and travel, ultimately arriving at the lungs. This is why we suggest you seek the expertise of a vascular specialist known as a phlebologist.
Diagnosis is key
When it comes to understanding the severity of DVT, visual diagnosis can only go so far. Diagnostics using vascular ultrasound is the best way to evaluate a condition because it provides the phlebologist with physiological information about the blood flow through the veins and arteries. As part of our diagnosis, we perform an ultrasound procedure known as vein mapping that provides a blueprint for future treatment as well as a benchmark to assess progress. Other benefits of ultrasound diagnosis are that it is painless, safe and cost-effective.
Once a thorough evaluation is performed, the vascular specialist will prescribe a treatment plan. Typically the treatment will involve a regimen of blood thinners and in some cases the insertion of vein filters.
The first and most important step is to advocate for yourself and let your healthcare provider know you are concerned. From there, your phlebologist can best assess the treatment options that will meet your goals.
Dr. Boris Bergus, M.D., R.V.S. is the director of Americas Vein Centers located in Norwood, Southborough, and East Greenwich, R.I. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.