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It’s common for people to associate health problems with things such as back pain, arthritis and other types of ailments, and certain types of... The Facts About Deep Vein Thrombosis

It’s common for people to associate health problems with things such as back pain, arthritis and other types of ailments, and certain types of diseases. However, there are serious conditions that may happen without any warning; in fact, you may not even be aware of how at risk your health may be. One of the serious, yet common conditions that may occur is deep vein thrombosis (DVT). When deep vein thrombosis happens, it can, unfortunately, be extremely serious and potentially fatal. It’s important to understand the risks, symptoms, and treatment for deep vein thrombosis, so here are the facts.

What is DVT?

Simply put, DVT is a blood clot that often develops in people that may already be experiencing a medical condition that affects your blood flow or your veins. [1] Deep vein thrombosis may also happen if you remain stationary for extended periods of time, such as being confined to the bed or sitting for long periods of time while traveling. The blood clot occurs in a vein, typically in a leg, but it can occur in other veins. Once the clot develops and settles in the vein, it prevents the blood from flowing and may cause pain and swelling in the affected area. When a DVT goes untreated, it may lead to a pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a blood clot breaks away and travels through your bloodstream and into your lungs. [2]

What Are the Risk Factors?

There are a number of things that may increase the risk of DVT occurring, including certain health conditions, such as inherited blood disorders, certain cancers, heart disease, and irritable bowel disease. DVT can also occur without being related to a preexisting health condition. Some risk factors [3] for the development of DVT may include:

  • Age-Although it can occur at any age, those who are 60 and older have a greater risk
  • Sitting for long periods of time-When legs are still for long hours, the calf muscles do not contract, which prevents blood circulation in the legs
  • Pregnancy often increases the pressure in your veins in the legs and pelvis and women with an inherited clotting disorder may be at an especially high risk of developing DVT and the risk of blood clots that developed during pregnancy may continue for about six weeks after giving birth.
  • Prolong bed rest, such as from paralysis or during an extended hospital stay may increase the risk of blood clots developing in the calves due to non-movement of the legs
  • Smoking affects circulation and blood clotting, which may increase the risk of DVT
  • Injury to your veins or surgery may increase your risk of developing blood clots
  • Oral contraceptives or hormone replacement may increase the ability of your blood to clot
  • Being overweight significantly increases the pressure in your leg and pelvis veins
  • Genetics may also play a role in the risk of developing DVT, especially if there is a history of factor V Leiden, which makes blood clot more easily.
  • Unprovoked VTE means that there is no known or apparent underlying risk factor for developing DVT

Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis

Now that you know the risk factors for developing deep vein thrombosis, it’s also important to understand and recognize the symptoms of DVT. [4]

  • Swelling in the leg where the blood clot is present
  • Pain that starts in the calf, the pain or discomfort may feel like soreness or cramping
  • The affected leg feels warm
  • The skin on the affected leg may be red or discolored

It is important to note that you may be experiencing deep vein thrombosis without even being aware. Some people may not experience any discomfort, pain, or changes in their health, which makes it difficult to detect a potential problem. If you do experience symptoms of DVT or you aren’t experiencing symptoms, but suspect you may be experiencing DVT, it is essential that you contact your medical provider as soon as possible to prevent the risk of further complications.

How is DVT Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose DVT, your physician will first ask you about the symptoms you are experiencing, and you will have a physical examination in order for the doctor to check for tenderness, swell, or discoloration. There are various tests your doctor may recommend depending on what they think your risk is of DVT. The most common tests to diagnose DVT may include:

  • D-dinner (a type of protein produced by blood clots) blood test-Most people that have severe DVT will have an increased blood level of D dinner and a normal level of D dinner often helps to rule out a pulmonary embolism.
  • Venography-This type of test consists of a dye being injected into a large vein either in your ankle or your foot. An x-ray is then done to look for clots (the dye helps to make the clot more visible). This type of test is considered invasive, so it is rarely done unless DVT is suspected but not showing up on only tests.
  • Duplex Ultrasound, which is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to make a picture of how the blood is flowing through the veins
  • MRI Scan is used to diagnose a DVT in the veins of the abdomen

DVT Treatment

There are basically three primary goals for the treatment of DVT; to prevent the blood clot from getting larger, to prevent the blood clot from breaking loose and traveling to your lungs, and to reduce your risks of getting another DVT. The treatment options may include: [5]

  • Blood thinners
  • Clot busters, also known as thrombolytic
  • Filters that help prevent clots breaking loose and lodging in your lungs
  • Compression stockings

There are measures you can take to help prevent the risk of DVT, such as moving regularly, practicing blood flow exercises, getting regular exercise, and making lifestyle changes, such as maintaining your weight and not smoking. Deep vein thrombosis can be extremely dangerous and if not treated may lead to a serious condition known as pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a blood clot breaks loose and travels to your lungs. If you are concerned about DVT, it is important that you talk with your medical provider about your risks and your concerns.