Did You Know You Can Get DVT Just from Working in an Office?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is one of the most common blood clotting disorders experienced by people who spend prolonged periods of time standing or sitting (or basically staying in the same position) – such as office employees. The blood clot forms in the deep veins of the thighs or lower legs. There are instances when these break off and become mobile, traveling through the body’s bloodstream. Once the clot lodges in other areas or organs, significant injury can occur. For instance, a clot lodged at the lungs will lead to pulmonary embolism, which can lead to a stroke and ultimately, death.
The Office Risk
Because of these instances, DVT has been colloquially called the “economy class syndrome” – referencing the idea of a cramped leg room area when you fly economy. Research from experts and medical professionals has led to significant findings over the years. They found that office employees – particularly those who sit for 8 hours a day – are at high risk for developing DVT. Also, merely sitting for three straight hours without any sort of physical activity can double this risk.
Office employees can find it hard to maintain an active lifestyle given the nature of their job, but even the smallest changes can improve their status and create a huge difference. If you work in an office where you sit for long hours, try to get up from the desk at least once every hour and move your feet even while you are seated.
Signs and Symptoms
Only half of all people suffering from DVT can identify and see or feel the symptoms. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has identified the following symptoms which, if you experience, should prompt you to seek a medical consultation immediately.
- Leg swelling / Vein swelling in the legs
- Leg tenderness or pain (you may feel this only when walking or standing)
- Warmth in the swollen or painful leg area
- Red discoloration of the affected area
Pulmonary Embolism Risk
As mentioned earlier, one of the most fatal complications that renders DVT dangerous is the risk of pulmonary embolism. What makes it even more dangerous is that almost all people suffering from the disease wouldn’t know they have DVT until the pulmonary embolism occurs. It is very important to consult your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden or inexplicable shortness of breath
- Deep breaths cause pain
- Blood when coughing
- Fast heart rate and rapid breathing
Once diagnosed with DVT, the primary course of treatment will be decided by the physician. Usually, this includes anticoagulants and blood thinners. While these medications cannot dissolve the blood clots, they can prevent new clots from forming in the future. The care plan can also include wearing compression stockings to help minimize the swelling of the legs once the clot has already developed.
We can never underestimate the value of prevention over cure. You can prevent varicose veins or SVT (superficial vein thromboses) from progressing into life-threatening conditions as well as reduce your risk of DVT development through the following steps:
- See to it that you stand up from sitting at least once every hour. This can be as simple as taking a walk to the next room, take the stairs up and back, fix a cup of coffee, etc. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in an office or at home.
- If you need to give a co-worker a message, walk over to his/her cubicle or desk instead of sending an e-mail if possible.
- Take walks as much as you can.
- Circle your feet in different directions while seated. Also, stretch your arms, hands and torso. Move your legs and feet to improve blood circulation in these areas, especially to the calves.
- Always make sure your clothing choices are loose and comfortable.
- Keep hydrated all the time.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Make sure you have an adequate intake of Vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber – all of which help minimize inflammation and increase blood circulation.
What About Varicose Veins?
A lot of people facing the risk of DVT are also concerned with the development of varicose veins. Although these are generally harmless, there are certain conditions such as superficial vein thromboses (SVT) which are more serious. This condition results in hardened, inflamed and painful veins. Medical professionals recommend not ignoring these symptoms. Some research also suggests that people suffering from SVT have a chance of having an undiagnosed DVT. SVT by itself is not life-threatening, but the risk of developing DVT as well is enough reason to seek medical help immediately.
All in all, the treatment for DVTs revolve around the reduction of symptoms and alleviation of pain and inflammation. The best treatment is to not need treatment at all – which is possible through the preventive measures mentioned earlier. The key lies in simply living a healthy, fit and vice-free lifestyle whether you are working in an office or not.
Kaki Zell - Vice President of Sales, Marketing, eCommerce at Legs-4-Life LLC
Kaki holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She’s been working in the medical device industry over 11 years and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greensboro Science Center.
Written May 2018 | Page last updated November 2021
Cleveland Clinic. “Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16911-deep-vein-thrombosis-dvt
Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Varicose Veins” https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/varicose-veins
Medical Dictionary. “Economy Class Syndrome” https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/economy+class+syndrome
Merck Manuals. “Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)” https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/heart-and-blood-vessel-disorders/venous-disorders/deep-vein-thrombosis-dvt
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “Venous Thromboembolism” https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/venous-thromboembolism