Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a condition caused by a blood clot that develops in one, or more than one vein in the body. The condition typically targets the sufferer’s legs but can affect any vein in the body. While it is possible for the condition to be present without any symptoms, it usually presents with pain, burning, and swelling.
DVT can develop alone if you are at risk, or it can develop in combination with various health conditions. It is common in patients who just had surgery, and when they are bed ridden for an extended period of time. The condition can be extremely dangerous because the blood clots are not completely trapped in the vein. They can break loose from the location they initially lodged in and make their way through the blood stream. Once they are floating freely, they can become lodged in the lungs where they block the flow of blood from being oxygenated. This is known to medical professionals as a pulmonary embolism.
Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis
There are many symptoms caused by deep vein thrombosis, but many of them are ignored and dismissed as regular aches and pains. Here are some of the symptoms most noted by suffers of DVT:
- Swelling in the affected leg
- Pain in the leg
- Cramping in the leg
- Red skin
- Discolored skin
- The leg being warm to the touch
Keep in mind, it is possible for DVT to occur with no symptoms at all. But if you do have any symptoms, contact a doctor immediately to avoid the risk of developing a pulmonary embolism. If you develop any symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, you should seek emergency medical treatment.
Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism
There are many symptoms of pulmonary embolism. Most of these symptoms are proceeded by the symptoms of a DVT blood clot, but do not have to be. The symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath that has a sudden onset
- Chest pain or discomfort when breathing
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Increased pulse with no known cause
- Coughing up any quantity of blood
If you have any of these symptoms, or any of these symptoms combined, contact 911 or get to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Causes and Risk Factors for DVT
There are many causes of DVT. While not all of these causes are outlined here, you can assume that anything that thickens your blood or prevents blood flow or clotting factor to change can cause a blood clot.
- Injury to a vein
- Limited movement
- An inherited clotting disorder
- Prolonged bed rest
- Birth control pills
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Being overweight
- Having cancer
- Heart failure
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Family history of DVT
- Being over 60 years of age
When DVT Becomes Chronic
A condition called chronic deep vein thrombosis can develop. This condition is diagnosed if a clot is present over a period of one or two months. During this time, the clot becomes harder and denser. The vein begins to scar and becomes smaller. This further reduces blood flow, causing pain and tissue damage.
Symptoms of Chronic DVT
The most common symptoms associated with DVT involve:
- Skin discoloration
Patients are typically prescribed compression stockings to reduce the amount of pain they experience, and to prevent the clot from breaking loose and causing a pulmonary embolism.
Treatment of DVT
Treatment of DVT can involve a number of approaches. These treatments may include traditional and nontraditional approaches depending on the location of the clot.
The most commonly prescribed treatment for DVT is support stockings, or compression stockings. These prevent the clot from breaking loose, which would cause a pulmonary embolism. After the clot has been eliminated, wearing the stockings can prevent a new clot from developing.
DVT is usually treated with anticoagulants, which are commonly called blood thinners. The blood thinner can be taken as an injection or a pill. This will reduce the ability to clot and reduce the chances of you developing another blood clot.
For serious cases of DVT, or cases of DVT involving pulmonary embolism clot busters may be prescribed. They are also prescribed when other methods of treatment are not as effective at treating the condition. These medications are given in the hospital on an emergency basis and are provided through an IV line.
If you are not able to take blood thinners due to a reaction, your doctor may recommend a filter be placed into a large vein. This filter will catch any clots DVT associated clots in the legs before they are able to enter the lungs. These filters are typically placed in the vena cava, which is in the abdomen.
While the treatments are not always effective in eliminating the future development of blood clots, they are extremely effective in treating blood clots on a case-by-case basis. If you are at risk for developing DVT or blood clots, talk to your doctor about your options in preventing DVT blood clots that can pose serious risks to your life.