DVT (Deep vein thrombosis) occurs when thrombus forms in one or more deep body veins (usually in the legs). Deep vein thrombosis can cause pain and swelling in the legs, but it can also occur without symptoms.
If you have a specific medical condition that affects blood clotting, you may develop DVT. Blood clots can also form in the legs when you are not active for long periods, such as when traveling long distances, after surgery, after an accident, or lying in bed.
Deep vein thrombosis can be very severe. Blood clots in the veins can rupture and travel through the bloodstream, blocking the lungs and blood flow (pulmonary embolism). However, pulmonary embolism can occur without any signs of DVT.
What Happens to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
A thrombosis and a blood clot are the same things. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can cause sudden pain and frequent swelling of the lower limbs. If left untreated, blood clots can remain the same size but can develop and grow. Blood clots can move to the lungs and block the blood vessels that connect to the heart. That serious problem is called pulmonary embolism. According to research, the maximum risk of pulmonary embolism is within six weeks of starting DVT. However, emergency treatment of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can decrease this risk.
What causes a DVT?
The following conditions increase the risk of DVT:
- Hereditary (genetic) diseases that increase the risk of blood clots
- Restriction of deep venous blood flow due to injury or surgery
- Cancer and some of its treatments (chemotherapy)
- Prolonged inactivity can reduce blood flow, including:
- Sitting for long periods when traveling by car, truck, bus, train, or plane
- Immobility or a severe injury after surgery
- Aged people 40+ (although DVT can affect people of all ages)
- Pregnancy and the first six weeks after delivery
- Taking oral contraceptives or hormone therapy
- Wearing a central venous catheter or pacemaker
According to the CDP (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), only about half of people with this disease experience DVT symptoms.
The most common signs of DVT are:
- Swelling of the foot, ankle, or leg, usually on one side
- Spasmodic pain in the affected extremity, usually starting in the lower leg
- Intense, unexplained pain in the feet and ankles
- Areas of skin that are warmer than the surroundings
- The affected skin may be pale, red, or bluish, depending on the color of the skin
People with deep vein thrombosis in the upper limbs or blood clots in the arms may have no symptoms. In this case, the common symptoms are:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder stiffness
- Pain that travels from the arm to the forearm
- Swelling of the arms and hands
- Blue or dark skin
- Weakness of the hand
You may not know that you have DVT until you receive emergency treatment for pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs).
Pulmonary embolism can occur when a DVT thrombosis travels from an arm or leg to the lungs. Blocked arteries in the lungs can be life-threatening and require emergency treatment.
How Is DVT Treated?
Doctors will try to prevent blood clots from expanding, breaking, or getting into the lungs. They also try to reduce the chances of getting another DVT.
That can be done in one of three means:
Anticoagulants are the most used drugs to treat DVT. These medications reduce the blood’s ability to clot. You may require taking it for six months. If your signs are severe or the blood clot is large, your doctor may prescribe a more vital medication to dissolve it. These thrombolytic drugs have serious side effects, such as sudden bleeding. Therefore, it is not often prescribed.
2. Inferior vena cava (IVC) filter
If you cannot take anticoagulants, or if they do not work, your doctor may insert a small conical filter into the inferior vena cava. It is the most prominent vein in your body. The filter can catch large blood clots before they reach the lungs.
3. Compression stockings
These unique socks are much fitted at the ankle and loosen when they reach the knee. This pressure stops blood from pooling in the veins. You can buy different types of socks from pharmacies. However, the doctor can prescribe a more potent version.
Complications of DVT include:
- Pulmonary Embolism (PE)
PE is a life-threatening complication linked with DVT when a blood vessel in the lung is blocked by another part of the body, a blood clot (thrombus) that usually travels from the leg to the lung.
It is essential to see a doctor immediately if you have any signs or symptoms of PE. PE may have sudden shortness of breath, chest pain when inhaling or coughing, shortness of breath, fast pulse, dizziness or fainting, and hemoptysis.
2. Post-phlebitic syndrome
Venous damage caused by a blood clot can reduce blood flow to the affected area, causing pain and swelling in the lower limbs, skin discoloration, and skin infection.
3. Treatment complications
Anticoagulants used to treat DVT can cause complications. Bleeding is a worrying side effect of anticoagulants. It is essential to have regular blood tests while taking these medicines.
Some Tips to Avoid DVT
- Don’t tend to sit down for an extended period.
- If you’re on an airplane, drink a lot of soft drinks
- Remain hydrated: Drink six glasses of water daily
- Talk to your doctor about the need for medication or gradual compression stockings for long-haul flights.
- If you have been on the plane for more than 4 hours, get up, walk down the aisle, and rock your legs up and down.
- If you have varicose veins (especially if you are pregnant), wear a support tube.
- If you are sitting moderately, raise your legs.
- Do not wear tights (stretchable belts or garter belts) on your legs or hips.
If you are traveling or hospitalized, you can decrease DVT risk by wearing compression stockings, moving your legs as much as possible, and drinking plenty of water.
If you already have DVT, it is crucial to stop smoking, stay healthy and sustain a healthy weight. Some people may require taking low doses of anticoagulants for long periods or using them before long flights.
We hope so this article will help you to understand what Deep Vein Thrombosis is, its causes, symptoms, and treatments.