Deep vein thrombosis or DVT, is caused by a blood clot in a deep vein and can be life-threatening. Symptoms may include swelling, pain, and tenderness, often in the legs. Risk factors include immobility, hormone therapy and pregnancy.
Symptoms of DVT
• Swelling in one or both legs.
• Pain or tenderness in your leg, ankle, foot or arm. It might feel like a cramp or charley horse that you can’t get rid of. Leg and foot pain might happen only when you stand or walk.
• Warm skin on your leg.
• Red or discolored skin on your leg.
• Veins that are swollen, red, hard or tender to the touch that you can see.
• Sudden coughing which may bring up blood
• Sharp chest pain or chest tightness
• Pain in your shoulder, arm, back, or jaw
• Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain when you breathe
• Severe lightheadedness
• Fast heartbeat
Causes of DVT
• Age. DVT can happen at any age, but your risk is greater after age 40.
• Sitting for long periods. When you sit for long stretches of time, the muscles in your lower legs stay lax. This makes it hard for blood to circulate, or move around, the way it should. Long flights or car rides can put you at risk.
• Surgery. Blood vessels can be damaged during surgery, which can lead to the development of a blood clot. Bed rest with little to no movement after surgery may also increase your risk for developing a blood clot.
• Bed rest. Like when you’re in the hospital for a long time, can also keep your muscles still and raise your odds of DVT.
• Pregnancy . Carrying a baby puts more pressure on the veins in your legs and pelvis. What’s more, a clot can happen up to 6 weeks after you give birth.
• Obesity. People with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 have a higher chance of DVT. This measures how much body fat you have, compared with your height and weight.
• Serious health issues. Conditions like Irritable bowel disease, cancer, and heart disease can all raise your risk.
• Certain inherited blood disorders. Some diseases that run in families can make your blood thicker than normal or cause it to clot more than it should.
• Injury to a vein. This could result from a broken bone, surgery, or other trauma.
• Reduced mobility or inactivity. When you sit frequently, blood can collect in your legs, especially the lower parts. If you’re unable to move for extended periods of time, the blood flow in your legs can slow down. This can cause a clot to develop.
• Certain medications. Some medications increase the chances your blood will form a clot.
• Blood test. D dimer is a type of protein produced by blood clots. Almost all people with severe DVT have increased blood levels of D dimer. A normal result on a D-dimer test often can help rule out PE.
• Duplex ultrasound. This noninvasive test uses sound waves to create pictures of how blood flows through your veins. It’s the standard test for diagnosing DVT. For the test, a technician gently moves a small hand-held device (transducer) on your skin over the body area being studied.
There are three main goals to DVT treatment.
• Prevent the clot from getting bigger.
• Prevent the clot from breaking loose and traveling to the lungs.
• Reduce your chances of another DVT
• Clot busters. Also called thrombolytics, these drugs might be prescribed if you have a more serious type of DVT or PE, or if other medications aren’t working.
These drugs are given either by IV or through a tube (catheter) placed directly into the clot. Clot busters can cause serious bleeding, so they’re usually only used for people with severe blood clots.
• Filters. If you can’t take medicines to thin your blood, you might have a filter inserted into a large vein — the vena cava — in your abdomen. A vena cava filter prevents clots that break loose from lodging in your lungs.
• Compression stockings. These special knee socks reduce the chances that your blood will pool and clot. To help prevent swelling associated with deep vein thrombosis, wear them on your legs from your feet to about the level of your knees.
• Your doctor may suggest surgery to remove a DVT clot in your arm or leg. This is typically only recommended in the case of very large blood clots or clots that are causing serious issues, like tissue damage.
• During a surgical thrombectomy or surgery to remove a blood clot, your surgeon will make an incision into a blood vessel.
• DVT Exercise. The longer you sit, the greater your risk of developing a blood clot. If you have to be seated for long periods, there are exercises you can do while sitting to keep your legs moving and help circulate blood.
• Ask your doctor about your diet. Foods high in vitamin K, such as spinach, kale, other leafy greens and Brussels sprouts, can interfere with warfarin.
• Take your medications as directed. Your doctor will tell you how long you will need treatment. If you’re taking certain blood thinners, you’ll need a blood test to see how well your blood is clotting.
• Watch for excessive bleeding. This can be a side effect of blood thinners. Talk to your doctor about activities that could cause you to bruise or get cut, as even a minor injury could become serious if you’re taking blood thinners.
• Don’t sit for too long. Get up and stretch or walk around at least every 2 hours. It can also help to move your legs while you’re seated. Raise and lower your heels while keeping your toes on the floor, or lift your toes while keeping your heels on the ground.
• Get moving as soon as you can after surgery. This will lower your chances of a blood clot forming. Even doing simple leg lifts in bed will help keep blood flowing through your veins.