What is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is when a clot forms in a vein deep in the body, usually in the legs. DVT is a serious, potentially fatal, health problem. Knowing the warning signs of DVT and seeking immediate medical attention, is the key to treating this issue.
Read on to learn more about what deep vein thrombosis is, what to look for, if you’re at risk, how to get diagnosed and how this condition is treated.
Blood clots can form in any veins, but legs and arms are the most common. Deep vein thrombosis signs and symptoms can include:
Swelling in the affected leg. Rarely, there's swelling in both legs.
Significant sudden onset pain in your leg. The pain often starts in your calf and can feel like cramping or soreness.
Red or discolored skin on the leg.
A feeling of warmth in the affected leg.
Deep vein thrombosis can also occur without noticeable symptoms. You should seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the above symptoms.
Who is at risk?
While anyone can get DVT, you may be more likely to develop the condition if you:
Have a family history of blood clots
Have a known clotting disorder
Have undergone surgery
Have been pregnant
Are considered overweight or obese
Take or have taken birth control pills or female hormone medications
Have or had cancer
Have used tobacco
Have experienced prolonged bed rest, such as during a long hospital stay, or paralysis
Are older than 60
Have had heart problems
Have Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel diseases
Have a central venous catheter
Sit for long periods of time, such as when driving or flying
How is DVT diagnosed?
There are 2 tests used to diagnose this condition.
Duplex ultrasound – This imaging test uses sound waves to visualize the inside of the veins and look for blood clots.
D-dimer – A D-dimer test looks for protein in the blood, which is usually elevated when there’s a blood clot. If it’s negative, this can help rule out the likely presence of deep vein thrombosis.
A serious complication associated with deep vein thrombosis is pulmonary embolism. This happens when part of the blood clot breaks off and travels to the lungs. If large enough, it can block the flow of blood to the lungs and cause death. See a doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms:
Passing out or feeling dizzy
Racing heart beat
Shortness of breath that is sudden and out of the blue
Chest pain that gets worse when taking a deep breath or coughing
Coughing up blood
Deep vein thrombosis treatment is aimed at preventing the clot from getting bigger and preventing it from breaking loose and causing a pulmonary embolism. DVT is most commonly treated with anticoagulants, also called blood thinners. These drugs, which can be injected or taken as pills, decrease your blood's ability to clot. They don't break up existing blood clots, but they can prevent clots from getting bigger and reduce your risk of developing more clots.
Measures to prevent deep vein thrombosis include:
Avoid sitting still. If you have had surgery or have been on bed rest for other reasons, try to get moving as soon as possible. If you're sitting for a while, don't cross your legs, which can hamper blood flow. If you're traveling a long distance by car or plane, stop every hour or so and walk around.
If you're on a plane, stand or walk occasionally. If you can't do that, exercise your lower legs. Try raising and lowering your heels while keeping your toes on the floor, then raising your toes with your heels are on the floor.
Make lifestyle changes. Lose weight and quit smoking.
Exercise. Regular exercise lowers your risk of blood clots, which is especially important for people who sit a lot or travel frequently.
Elmore Medical Vein & Laser Treatment Center is the premier vein specialty medical practice in the Central Valley. Dr. Mario H. Gonzalez and his staff offer years of experience and medical expertise that you won’t find anywhere else. Contact us today to set up a consultation appointment.