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Potential DVT risk linked to lockdown?

Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics
30 July 2020

An emergency care doctor recently told me that they had noticed an increase in young, fit and healthy people developing DVT in the last few weeks. This is deep vein thrombosis – when a blood clot develops in one of your deep veins (usually your leg). We don’t know exactly why this has happened but there’s some suspicion that it could perhaps be down to many people being less active during lockdown. People may be more dehydrated too, as working practices and routines have changed so much.

Here I explain the signs of DVT and how to prevent it.

Symptoms of DVT

Most people don’t have any DVT symptoms. If the blood clot is big you may have a swollen leg, feel some pain and tenderness, and your skin may feel warm and look red. If you do develop these symptoms, please seek urgent medical attention.

If a blood clot moves up and into your lungs it can cause a pulmonary embolism. This is a blockage of a blood vessel in your lungs which can be very serious and sometimes life-threatening.

What can increase the risk of DVT?

DVT has many causes and risk factors, but here we focus on the two main causes that might be putting young, fit and healthy people more at risk.

Sitting for a long time

You’ll perhaps know that when you go on a long-haul flight (four hours or longer), the advice is to get up and move about regularly. This is to prevent DVT. And If you’re now working at home, and perhaps working longer hours, there’s a chance you may not be as active as you were before lockdown. So if you are sitting down for very long periods of time, then it’s a good idea to be aware of this and be more active.

Also, make sure that your working space isn’t too cramped and that you have enough room for your legs.

Dehydration

Dehydration is another factor that can cause DVT. If you’re not getting enough fluids, then it’s time to change that. Aim to drink 1.5 to 2 litres of fluids a day. This is roughly about 8 to 10 glasses (200ml).

A very easy way to check if you’re hydrated enough is to check the colour of your pee. Use our handy guide to make sure you’re fully hydrated. Remember on warm summer days, you will lose more fluid through your sweat, so will have to compensate for this.

hydration levels -urine test infographic

DVT prevention tips

Tips for getting more active

  • Take breaks throughout your working day. Set reminders on your phone or in your calendar.
  • Set boundaries for work and home life. Don’t work past your working hours – talk to your manager if you’ve got too much on your plate.
  • Get some daily exercise. Go for a walk or jog before you start work or, do a home workout at lunchtime, or try a HIIT routine once you’ve restarted some regular exercise.
  • Do some exercises while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil.
  • Take a short break and get some chores done at the same time – watering the plants for example.
  • Take five minutes at the end of meetings to get up and stretch.
  • Do something active in the evening rather than sitting in front of the TV or gaming. A walk after dinner, for example. Or when you are watching TV, do some exercises in the ad breaks.
  • Make a commitment – booking online for a virtual workout or outdoor fitness class. Or making plans with a friend to do something active.

Tips for drinking more fluids

  • Put a jug of cold water in the fridge and keep topping up a glass or bottle you keep next to your desk.
  • You could put some slices of lemon, lime, orange or cucumber in it to make it more exciting.
  • Make a pot of fresh mint tea – all you need is hot water and fresh mint leaves. It’s refreshing and makes for a nice afternoon cuppa.
  • Try not to drink fizzy drinks or squash as these have a lot of sugar and will damage your teeth.
  • If you do drink squash, choose no added sugar varieties.
  • Put a water bottle in your bag or car if you go out.
  • A glass of fruit juice can count towards your five a day, but remember it has lots of sugar in it too.
  • Get hydrated from the foods you eat! Cucumber, tomatoes and apples are great sources of water-rich foods.
  • Make sure to finish a glass of water instead of throwing the leftover bit down the sink.

COVID-19 and DVT risk

There is a possible link between COVID-19 and DVT too. Very early data suggests that DVT could be a potential complication of COVID-19, as doctors have noticed an increase in patients in hospital with coronavirus. However, at the moment there is no published research into the relationship between COVID-19 and DVT. A few theories have been suggested. For example, DVT has been an associated complication with other similar illnesses. But doctors don’t yet know what the exact relationship is between DVT and coronavirus.

How is DVT treated?

DVT is treated with medicines called anticoagulants. These stop clots from forming or stop them from getting bigger. We have more detailed information about treatments on our DVT topic page.

Dr Sarah White
Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics

    • Deep vein thrombosis. NICE clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, last revised March 2020
    • Pulmonary embolism. BMJ Best Practice. bestpractice.bmj.com, last reviewed June 2020
    • DVT prevention for travellers. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.org.uk, last revised August 2018
    • Fluid (water and drinks). British Dietetic Association. www.bda.uk.com, last reviewed March 2017
    • Are you drinking enough? Infection Prevention Control. www.infectionpreventioncontrol.co.uk, published September 2018
    • Marone E, Rinaldi L. Upsurge of deep venous thrombosis in patients affected by COVID-19: Preliminary data and possible explanations J Vasc Surg Venous Lymphat Disord 2020; 8(4):694–695. doi:10.1016/j.jvsv.2020.04.004

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