According to the American Heart Association, up to two million Americans are affected annually by Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Yet, according to a national survey sponsored by the American Public Health Association, 74% of Americans have little or no awareness of DVT. Many people, including truck drivers, are not aware of this life-threatening disease or the fact that deep vein thrombosis is also among the leading causes of preventable hospital death. Sitting and driving for long distances over an extended period of time increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in truck drivers.
A Truck Driver’s Story: Harry & DVT
Harry, a Westminster, Maryland based long-haul trucker who has been driving since 1992, found out the hard way about the dangers of blood clots. It almost killed him. It’s a story you’ll hear often from many truckers.
Harry explains that he missed the warning signs, and believes he’s lucky to be alive. “I had never even heard of DVT (Deep vein thrombosis, the medical term for blood clots formed most commonly in the legs). I just knew that I had really bad leg pain, but I just walked it off and figured, well, I just needed to stretch my legs. Eventually, it got to the point where I could no longer ignore the symptoms.”
Harry recalls that he often ran out of breath but couldn’t figure out why. He was scheduled to make another truck run, but his breathing became so difficult that he called his dispatcher to let him know that he had to see a doctor.
Harry went to see a vascular doctor who specializes in artery and vein diseases. The doctor performed a vascular diagnostic test and also conducted tests and a lung scan to check Harry’s lungs since Harry was having difficulty breathing. The vascular screening results showed that a DVT blood clot had formed in his leg, and the lung scan showed further complications where a portion of the blot clot had traveled all the way from Harry’s leg to his lungs and formed a pulmonary embolism (PE).
A pulmonary embolism occurs when a clump of material, most often a blood clot, gets wedged into an artery of the lungs. They can travel through the body, lodge in the lungs, and block arteries; making it a serious, debilitating condition that can also be fatal.
The vascular specialist who diagnosed Harry with having a PE also informed Harry that he would need to start blood thinners immediately and Harry was given tips for lifestyle changes, along with ways to prevent DVT and PE from occurring again. The vascular surgeon literally saved Harry’s life!
5 Things Truck Drivers Need To Know About DVT:
1. DVT is a blood clot formed in one of your deep veins, usually in the legs. It often occurs without symptoms.
2. The main risk factor for DVT in truck drivers is prolonged periods of sitting. Older age, smoking, and obesity can increase the risk.
3. Staying active, maintaining your ideal body weight, and understanding your risk factors will help prevent DVT and the very dangerous consequence of pulmonary embolism.
4. Normally, over time, the body will dissolve most blood clots on its own.
5. Sitting in the driver’s seat of a truck, car or any vehicle for extended hours slows down blood flow as there’s no need for the heart to pump vigorously.
Sitting in the driver’s seat of a truck, car or any vehicle for extended hours slows down blood flow as there’s no need for the heart to pump vigorously. Due to gravity, the blood tends to pool in the legs and ankles when you sit for long periods of time. This sluggish, pooled blood is in prime condition for blood clot formation.
Early symptoms & signs of DVT blood clot include:
- A deep throbbing in the leg
- Inability to flex the foot or ankle
- Pain, swelling and tenderness in one of the legs (usually your calf)
- Red skin, particularly at the back of the leg below the knee
- Swelling, soreness, unusual warmth, or red skin on the leg
Truck drivers often shrug off the initial symptoms, just as many other people do. For those with DVT who are unaware of their condition, having symptoms can actually be a good thing. The DVT symptoms can alert the truck driver or other patients that there is a problem that needs medical evaluation before it becomes more significant. If you or a truck driver or professional driver, who lives or works in MD or PA, that is experiencing any of the symptoms of DVT, then you should call our vascular outpatient center to schedule an appointment today.
DVT Prevention Tips
- Get Moving. Staying in a static position for more than 2 hours is a no-no if you’re at risk for DVT. Move around. Every couple of hours, get out of your truck and walk around. This will stimulate your leg muscles and get your blood flowing to lower the risk of blood pooling and clotting. Because DVT can happen to anyone, stopping to stretch your legs makes sense even if you’ve never before had a blood clot. By maintaining a daily aerobic routine made up of several short walks, you also reduce your risk of DVT.
- Stay hydrated. Hydration means drinking water rather than coffee, which has a dehydrating effect. Poor hydration thickens the blood, making it more prone to clot formation.
- Do leg stretching exercises. Leg stretching exercises combined with walking is even more effective than walking alone.
- Wear compression socks. Compression socks will put pressure on your calves to encourage blood circulation. Even over-the-counter compression stockings can be effective. A study in the journal “Thrombosis” in 2012 found that people who wore compression stockings were less likely to develop complications from deep vein thrombosis. Knee-length stockings may be just as effective as thigh-length and are easier to wear.
- Lose Weight. Obesity can more than double DVT risk, especially in women over five foot six and men six feet or taller. Tall people have to pump blood further up the body against the force of gravity, which may reduce flow in the legs and raise the risk of clotting.
- Work your leg muscles. While driving, press and/or curl your toes down, and flex your feet.
- Reduce salt intake.
- Avoid crossing legs.
DON’T DISMISS DVT SYMPTOMS! – SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT FOR AN EXPERT CONSULTATION TODAY!
If you notice any of the symptoms of DVT, ignoring them won’t make them go away. Make it a priority to have a vascular specialist at Vascular & Cardiothoracic Associates of Maryland evaluate your symptoms to determine if you have DVT or some other type of artery or vein disorder that is causing your leg pain, leg cramps or other problems. Request a consultation today!