Bouncing back from a blood clot in the leg seems like a victory in itself. Unfortunately, recovery isn’t always just a one-step process with everyone who has suffered from such a condition, and long-term damage is frequently an outcome.
Post-thrombotic syndrome, also known as PTS, is a condition that can develop in the legs following deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Suffering from post-thrombotic syndrome has become all too common and regrettably, it can develop at any time following a DVT. One month out or one year from diagnosis, PTS is still a burdensome risk. The good news is it’s said after 2 years, the risk drastically drops.
The development of the syndrome is a sign that one’s previous deep vein thrombosis caused chronic venous insufficiency. The blocked veins may have become over-dilated, or neighboring smaller veins may have enlarged to help take over the workload during the blockage. When this happens the overworking veins may succumb to damage that’s irreversible, even after the blockage dissipates. The body is a pretty awesome vessel, however, it might not be able to fully restore the veins function, thus resulting in what we know as post-thrombotic syndrome.
Symptoms of PTS are rather apparent and it’s uncommon that this condition will creep up without warning. The signs are even a bit consistent with the onset of DVT. Leg heaviness, swelling, and general discomfort of the extremity are all indications. We like to think of it as dragging around an anvil for a leg - takes quite a bit longer to get places. The leg is tired, cramping, and may even have a bluish discoloration signaling decreased blood circulation. Those experiencing PTS might also notice a dry hardening of the skin and formation of skin ulcers if circulation is drastically compromised.
Thankfully there are some pretty easy steps one can take to help reduce the risk of PTS developing after deep vein thrombosis. Drum roll please… we are happy to say that compression stockings are said to be one of the best deterrents! Compression garments may help aid the veins in circulating the blood and keeping swelling to a minimum. Compression should be worn during the day while standing, and until the symptoms subside.
The key to compression is to make sure you’re wearing the best size and style for your specific needs. So speak with your physician or inquire as to whether a full length garment, thigh high, or knee high will do the trick. Also, it’s important to know which compression level is recommend, as doctors often prescribe compression strength based on the severity of the prior deep vein thrombosis.
Lastly, double-check your measurements. We can’t say this enough. Compression garments should be fitted based off your circumference measurements, so keep in mind even if you’re normally a medium, you may be a large in compression. We have a great informational page on taking your measurements, so if you need some extra guidance see our Learn More section for our “how to measure” link (here). You can also reach out directly to us and we’re happy to walk you through it.
In addition to compression - NOT as a substitute – elevating the extremity, along with moderate exercise may help improve the symptoms. As always, check with your physician to confirm you’re clear for physical training. You definitely don’t want to be doing anything beyond what you’re body is capable of, so keep that in mind.
The best advice we can give is to remain positive! Such conditions are sometimes frustrating and disheartening. Remember that rest is important and recovery may take longer than expected, so don’t set unrealistic expectations. We think proper care and diligence is the best medicine. Be good to yourself and make small goals.