What is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious medical condition in which a blood clot forms in one or more of your body's deep veins. This condition usually occurs in the lower leg or thigh but can also occur in other veins located deep inside the body.
What are the Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
Deep vein thrombosis is caused by a blood clot, which is a clump of blood that has solidified. The clot blocks a vein, stopping blood from flowing normally throughout your body. Clotting can occur for a variety of causes. Some of them include:
- Damage to a vein from surgery
- Inflammation due to infection or injury
- Reduced mobility or inactivity
- Certain medications
What are the Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
Signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include:
- Swelling in the affected leg
- Pain in your leg
- Red or discolored skin on the leg
- A feeling of warmth in the affected leg
Risk factors of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Some of the risk factors of deep vein thrombosis include:
- Age, being older than 60
- Sitting for long periods of time, such as when driving or flying
- Injury or surgery
- Being overweight or obese
- Heart failure
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Family history of DVT
Diagnosis of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this a physical examination is performed to check for areas of swelling, tenderness, or changes in skin color. Your doctor may also recommend the following diagnostic tests:
- D-dimer Blood Test: Blood clots produce D dimer, a type of protein. Almost all people with severe DVT have increased blood levels of D dimer. A normal D-dimer test result can often help rule out DVT.
- Duplex Ultrasound: Sound waves are used to create images of how blood flows through your veins in this noninvasive examination. It helps to identify a blood clot and evaluate blood flow through your arteries and veins.
- Venography: This is a special x-ray examination in which a contrast substance is injected to visualize how blood flows through your veins.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan: An imaging study that uses a large magnetic field and radio waves to detect DVT in veins of the abdomen.
What are the Treatments for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
Treatment options for deep vein thrombosis include:
- Blood Thinners: Anticoagulants, often known as blood thinners, are the most common treatment for deep vein thrombosis. These therapies will not eliminate existing blood clots, but they can help keep them from growing larger and reduce your risk of getting more blood clots. Blood thinners can be taken orally, delivered intravenously, or injected under the skin.
- Thrombolytics (Clot Busters): If you have a more serious type of DVT or if other medications aren't working, thrombolytic drugs may be recommended. These medications are administered through an IV or a tube (catheter) inserted directly into the clot. Clot busters are normally reserved for those who have major blood clots because they might cause serious bleeding.
- Filters: If you are unable to use blood thinners, you may need a filter implanted in the vena cava, a big abdominal vein. A vena cava filter keeps clots from getting into your lungs when they break loose from the site of origin. A blood clot that travels to the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism and is a medical emergency.
- Compression Stockings: These are special socks or stockings that support the walls of the blood vessels in the legs and help prevent blood from pooling and clotting. You will be instructed to wear them on your legs from your feet to around the level of your knees to help reduce swelling caused by deep vein thrombosis.
If you have a deep vein thrombosis clot in your arm or leg, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it. This is usually reserved for very large blood clots or clots that are causing major problems, such as tissue damage.
Deep vein thrombosis can be prevented by taking the following steps:
- Avoid sitting still for long periods of time
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular exercise
- Avoid smoking
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration