Deep vein thrombosis is a condition where a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins of your body. This usually occurs in the legs. You may get pain or swelling from this, but it also can occur without any symptoms.
You can get deep vein thrombosis if you have problems with blood clotting. It can also occur in those who don’t move for an extended period of time. This could be after surgery, an accident, or when you are confined to a bed for an extended period.
The danger with deep vein thrombosis is that blood clots may break free and travel to your lungs. This might block blood flow, creating a pulmonary embolism.
Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis has the following signs and symptoms:
- Swelling in the affected leg. Sometimes, you might get swelling in both legs.
- Pain in the affected leg. This pain many times begins in your calf and might feel like cramping or soreness.
Deep vein thrombosis can sometimes happen with no noticeable symptoms.
The signs of a pulmonary embolism include:
- Unexplained sudden onset of shortness of breath
- Chest pain or discomfort that gets worse when you take a deep breath or cough
- A lightheaded feeling, dizziness, or fainting
- Rapid pulse
- Coughing up blood
Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis
The primary cause of deep vein thrombosis is poor blood flow. If your blood flow slows, blood can pool. This creates the possibility that the cells will stick together and begin to clot. People whose blood clots easily are at a greater risk for deep vein thrombosis.
You are more apt to get a clot after a surgery that reduces blood flow to a part of your body. Also, after major surgery to your legs, belly, or chest. These procedures can let tissue, protein, and fats go into your veins. When a wall of a vein gets damaged, it can release substances that cause blood clotting.
After a major surgery, you may be on bed rest. This prevents you from using your muscles. This can lead to slowed blood flow.
Risk Factors for DVT
Deep vein thrombosis can affect you at any age. However, if you are older than 60, your chances of getting it are more probable.
You must be watchful if you have had an illness that lays you up in bed for more than three days. Also, if you have ever had circulation or clotting problems before, then you can develop them again.
Here are some of the important risk factors for deep vein thrombosis:
- An injury that lessens blood flow. Particularly a broken pelvis, hip, or leg.
- Certain cancers and cancer treatments
- DVT or pulmonary embolism in your past
- An inherited blood-clotting disorder
- Hormone therapy for birth control or postmenopausal symptoms
- Pregnancy or recent birth, especially via a C-section
- Varicose veins
- Prior heart attack, stroke, or congestive heart failure
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Lifestyle and Habits
Lifestyle changes can have an effect on whether you will get deep vein thrombosis or not. If you are sedentary and don’t move around very much, then this could put you at risk for deep vein thrombosis. A long plane flight or a long car trip can also be a problem. When you don’t move around much, blood tends to settle in your legs.
If you are in a situation where you can’t move around for long periods of time, it is important to take breaks where you get up and stretch your body and your legs. There are even some exercises that you can do while sitting in one place. You can march in place and rhythmically move your arms around.
Carrying extra weight can also be a problem for deep vein thrombosis. Extra weight puts extra pressure on the veins in your lower body. This makes it harder to keep the blood flowing well.
Smoking also affects both circulation and clotting.
Although it is a rare condition, DVT can occur in your upper body as well. Some risk factors for this are:
- Having a catheter in an arm vein
- Getting a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator for certain heart conditions
- Cancer near a vein
Also, in unusual cases, overworking the muscles in your arms over time can lead to clots.
Tests and Diagnosis
To diagnose the condition, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. They will do a physical exam that will look for swelling, tenderness, or discoloration of your skin.
Further tests may include:
- Blood test
- CT or MRI scans
Treatments for Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis treatment is aimed at preventing the clot from getting larger. Also, you want to make sure that the clot doesn’t break loose and cause a pulmonary embolism.
The treatment options for deep vein thrombosis include:
Medications that can treat deep vein thrombosis include anticoagulants. These are also known as blood thinners. These medications reduce your body’s ability to clot. They can’t break up an existing clot. However, they can stop clots from getting bigger and prevent you from getting more clots.
The way that treatment works is as follows: First, you will be given a shot or infusion of the blood thinner heparin for a few days. Later, your treatment may continue with the injection of another blood thinner. This might be enoxaparin or dalteparin. Other blood thinners exist in pill form. These include warfarin and rivaroxaban.
You might need to continue with the blood thinners for three months or more. It is important to take the medication as it is prescribed. If you don’t take the right amount, then it can have bad side effects. Pregnant women shouldn’t take certain blood-thinning medications.
When you have a more severe type of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, or if medication is not working, your doctor may try different medications. These medications can be thrombolytics. These drugs can result in bleeding, so they are only used in life-threatening situations.
If, for some reason, you can’t take any of the medications, then a filter can be inserted into the vena cava in your abdomen.
These stockings help prevent swelling that comes with deep vein thrombosis. These stockings go from your feet to your knees. The pressure that they exert helps reduce the chances that your blood will pool and clot. You might need to wear the stockings during the day for two to three years.
Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition that can be possibly fatal if it leads to a pulmonary embolism. Exercise is important not only for your general health, but also it is important for preventing this condition. Fortunately, if it is caught early, there are good treatments for the problem. You should always consult with a doctor immediately if you have any of the symptoms that are described above.