A doctor is examining a patient's leg
Deep vein thrombosis (DTV) is the technical term for a blood clot occurring in a deep vein – a blood vessel far away from the surface of the body.

Can You Be Affected by Deep Vein Thrombosis?

As you age, the risk of various medical health conditions increases. Unless you practice prevention, exploit your good genes, and have a little luck along the way, you could be in danger of harmful consequences from multiple ailments including deep vein thrombosis.

What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a physical health condition with a complicated name and scary repercussions.

DVT is the technical term for a blood clot (thrombosis) occurring in a deep vein – a blood vessel far away from the surface of the body. Since many deep veins are located in the legs, the lower body is a frequent target of DVT.

By itself, DVT is a condition linked to multiple unwanted effects. If the clot stays in its current location, it can trigger damage to the valves located in the vein, resulting in a condition called post-thrombotic syndrome.

The most significant consequences of DVT, though, is when the clot breaks free from its location in a deep vein and begins circulating the bloodstream.

A potentially deadly condition called pulmonary embolism occurs when the blood clot reaches the lungs and begins to restrict the supply of blood and interrupt respiration.

Signs and Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis

Since DVT is very uncomfortable by itself and deadly when it leads to pulmonary embolism, knowing the signs and symptoms can be the difference between safety and injury – life and death.

The most obvious signs of DVT are:

  • Pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Tenderness.
  • Warm or hot skin in the area.
  • Distended veins.
  • Skin that is red or otherwise discolored.
  • Thickening or firmness of the vein called a “cord."

Unfortunately, many people and medical professionals may confuse many of these symptoms for other conditions or may not see the symptoms as problematic.

By missing the appropriate time to diagnose the condition, DVT will produce an embolism with symptoms of:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sudden and intense pain in the chest.
  • Strong coughing fits.
  • Finding blood in spit, mucus, or vomit.

With time, DVT will create signs and symptoms of the post-thrombotic syndrome, commonly found in the calf, like:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sudden and intense pain in the chest.
  • Skin changes.
  • Leg sores.
  • Blood and fluid pooling at the site of the problem.

If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, act quickly to secure professional medical attention. DVT and pulmonary embolisms do not get better on their own. They require emergency medical treatment.

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What Causes Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Like many other conditions, there is not just one issue causing the development of DVT. Instead, the illness has multiple contributors including:

  • Growing older.
  • A family history of DVT or disorders impacting blood clotting.
  • Smoking.
  • Being pregnant.
  • Using birth control pills or other medications affecting hormone levels.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Having other vein issues like varicose veins.
  • Having certain types of cancer.
  • Recently breaking the leg or hip.

DVT is also an expected effect following some surgical procedures on the hip, knee, or leg due to three main factors:

  • Slowed blood flow. With delayed blood flow during and after surgeries, the blood is more likely to clot.
  • Hypercoagulation. Surgeries introduce various debris and the body’s antigens into the circulatory system. These factors can trigger increased coagulation and clotting.
  • Damage to the vein. Any manipulation of the soft tissue can trigger reactions in the body resulting in higher clotting risk.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about the risks of DVT following surgical procedures to learn about preventative measures specifically for people in your situation.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Deep Vein Thrombosis

With the right tests, a medical professional can quickly and accurately diagnosis DVT. For diagnosis, a physician may recommend:

  • Ultrasound – an imaging tool, often used during pregnancy, that can see the presence of DVT. CTs and MRIs may also be used.
  • Venography – a special X-ray done after a dye is injected into the suspected area of DVT.
  • D-dimer – a test that studies levels of substances present after a blood clot dissolves.

One of the best ways to prevent and treat DVT is with compression stockings. By wearing these common garments, you can increase your circulation throughout your lower body, prevent blood pooling, and limit the risk of DVT and other blood clots.

Getting out of bed, being active, and only taking short breaks can reduce your risks of DVT developing, worsening, or reappearing. A few extra steps could change your life.

As always, use your medications as prescribed to complement your physical activity. Medication options for DVT include:

  • Blood thinners like warfarin and heparin. When the blood is thinned appropriately, blood clots are less likely to form.
  • Thrombin inhibitors. Good for people who cannot tolerate blood thinners, these medications disrupt normal blood clotting.
  • Thrombolytics. Medications to dissolve blood clots that have already formed.

Another great treatment option for DVT is perhaps the simplest of all – regular exercise and movement. This principle is especially important after surgery, since the longer you stay in the hospital bed, the greater your risk of DVT.

DVT can prove to be a concerning condition, but with the right knowledge and medical team by your side, it can be well-managed for a lifetime.