Symptoms and Treatments for Deep Vein Thrombosis
Reviewed by Cynthia Murphy, MD
Deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT, usually develops in the larger veins in the lower part of the leg and the thigh. Blood flow is blocked by a clot and pain and swelling develops. If the clot moves into the bloodstream this is known as an embolism and this can travel to the heart, brain, lungs or another area. If this occurs serious damage can occur. The blood clot is formed in the vein deep inside a part of the body which is usually the legs. If travelling by air then try to move your legs and do exercises recommended by most airlines. If you are a high risk you may be prescribed heparin on flights if they are going to take more than 4 hours.There are many reasons for the development of blood clots which include hereditary factors, smoking, heart disease, obesity, pelvic or leg fractures. If you have had an operation to the hip, knee, female pelvic surgery or had a pacemaker catheter put in via the vein and then on to the groin area raises the risk of DVT. Blood cells which are produced by the bone marrow makes the blood thicker therefore slower to flow. This is known as polycthemia vera. Women who have given birth can be at risk from deep vein thrombosis for the first six months after the birth.Other conditions which may cause deep vein thrombosis are cancer, estrogen medication, birth control pills and combine this with smoking and the chances of you developing deep vein thrombosis are greater. Suffering from hypercoagulability means that the blood has a higher risk of clotting. Although deep vein thrombosis tends to occur in adults aged 60 and above, they can happen at any age.Not moving around enough, sitting in the one position for long periods increases the chances of deep vein thrombosis, especially if you experience any of the following: one leg with red appearance, tenderness, pain or unusual heat in one leg and occurrence of edema.Tests which can be carried out to determine the presence of DVT are a Doppler ultrasound on the legs, plethysmography which measures the blood flow of the legs or a D-dimer blood test. An x-ray can be carried out to view the veins in the area of the leg which has been affected. This is known as a venography.There are tests which can be carried out by your health care provider to check the risk of blood clotting. Antiphospholipid antibodies, genetic tests can look for mutations which lead to blood clots being produced, e.g. prothrombin G20210A. Protein S and C levels, lupus anticoagulant, carry out a screening for DIC, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and activated protein C resistance which looks for the Factor V Leiden mutation.Treatment of deep vein thrombosis may include taking heparin and warfarin which are anticoagulants. This medication is preventative and cannot remove any existing clots. Should you have any concerns about any of the medication consult with your health care provider. Be aware there may be inter-reactions with other medication that you may be on or foods that you eat.Should surgery be required a filter is placed in the body’s largest vein to try to prevent the blood clots reaching the lungs. A large clot can be removed by injection of medications which reduce the clots. It has been known for some people to suffer pain and swelling in the leg (post phlebitis syndrome). Wearing compression stockings or socks during and after a deep vein thrombosis may help to reduce this problem. Blood thinning drugs may be prescribed.Blood clots which occur in the area of the thigh tend to break away and this is the cause of pulmonary embolism (PE). This is more likely than blood clots which occur in the lower leg area or any other part of the body. Treatment of deep vein thrombosis should be treated immediately after diagnosis as a blood clot which travels to the lungs or other areas in the body can be fatal. If you have DVT and experience chest pains, breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness, coughing blood or any other severe symptoms, it is crucial to get immediate medical attention.