What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Did you know that deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious, life-threatening condition? Deep vein thrombosis is when a blood clot forms in the deep vein system. This most commonly occurs in the legs. However, DVT can also develop in other parts of the body, such as the pelvis or arms.
Blood clots occur when blood thickens and clumps together. Deep vein thrombosis symptoms typically include swelling, discoloration, cramping, or warmth in the affected area. Sometimes, however, there are no signs at all. We want you to be aware that DVT can become severe if the blood clot travels to your lungs. When this occurs, it is called a pulmonary embolism and can be deadly.
Although there are a number of potential causes behind DVT, one of them is vein disease, or venous insufficiency. At USA Vein Clinics, we specialize in providing treatment for a range of painful, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous venous conditions.
In this article, we will discuss deep vein thrombosis symptoms, risk factors, complications, prevention, and treatment. Use the quick links below to jump to sections of information.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms
Symptoms and signs of deep vein thrombosis usually develop on one side of the body, such as in one leg or arm. However, not everyone will experience symptoms, so DVT may go undetected until examined by a physician.
The most common DVT symptoms include:
- Swelling in the leg
- A feeling of warmth in the affected area
- Skin redness
- Pain or tenderness in your lower body, such as a cramp
According to the CDC, close to 900,000 people are affected by either DVT or a pulmonary embolism (PE), or both, in the US each year. Many people experience deep vein thrombosis symptoms that resemble those of varicose veins. This can make it difficult to diagnose DVT without an ultrasound.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Causes and Risk Factors
DVT can form at any age as a result of any factor that prevents the blood from circulating properly. These factors can include prolonged periods of inactivity, certain medications, disease, surgery, or injury to a vein.
The condition can also occur without any symptoms, making it very important to learn about deep vein thrombosis risk factors. This way, you can take preventative measures to decrease your risk of developing blood clots.
Deep vein thrombosis risk factors include:
- A recent accident or surgery that requires lengthy bed rest: Blood clots can develop in veins damaged by surgery or trauma, or as a result of inflammation from an injury or infection.
- Having a blood-clotting disorder or a family history of these disorders: If a parent or sibling had DVT, you might be at greater risk of developing the condition. Moreover, some individuals have a genetic propensity that makes their blood clot more easily.
- Sitting for long periods, such as when driving or flying: Being immobile for long periods of time can impact your circulation. Blood clots can form in your lower legs if your calf muscles don’t move or contract for extended periods.
- Current or former smoker: Smoking affects circulation and blood clotting, which can increase your risk of DVT.
- Varicose veins: Individuals with gnarled, bluish veins near the surface of the skin can be at risk for developing a clot in the deeper veins of their legs. If you have varicose veins, an experienced vascular specialist can assess your risk for deep vein thrombosis. Varicose veins are a sign of underlying vein disease, which can cause painful or uncomfortable symptoms.
- Cancer: Some forms of cancer, such as breast, ovarian, pancreatic, bowel, and lung cancers, can increase substances in your blood that cause it to clot. Chemotherapy also increases the risk for DVT in individuals with cancer.
- Obesity: Being overweight puts pressure on the veins in the legs and pelvis, which can impact blood flow. The risk for DVT increases as the body mass index (BMI) rises.
- Pregnancy: Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth are more likely to develop DVT than other women. Although DVT during pregnancy is rare, the expanding uterus puts increased pressure in the veins of the pelvic area and legs, which can cause blood clots. Increased blood flow during pregnancy may also be a factor. Postpartum DVT can occur from damaged blood vessels in the pelvic area and uterus after giving birth.
- Over the age of 60 years old: Your risk of having DVT increases after the age of 40, nearly doubles with each succeeding decade, and peaks at age 60.
It’s important to seek immediate emergency care if you notice any signs of DVT. Your doctor will order an ultrasound to officially diagnose the disease.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Complications
Although DVT is often preventable and treatable, it is always cause for concern when one occurs. We want you to understand that deep vein thrombosis symptoms can become dangerous if the blood clot breaks loose. DVT can also lead to long-term, chronic issues.
Pulmonary Embolism (PE)
Blood clots which break off can potentially travel through the bloodstream and land in the lungs — a condition called Pulmonary Embolism (PE).
Be sure to act fast if you experience the following symptoms:
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood
- Feeling lightheaded or faint
- Chest pain or discomfort that worsens with a deep breath or cough
PE can be life-threatening and is a major risk factor for heart attack, so it’s critical to watch for the signs. In general, any blood clot is considered a medical emergency. It demands immediate treatment because it can lead to a pulmonary embolism or other life-threatening condition.
After receiving emergency care, you may wish to consult with a vascular specialist. If you are diagnosed with either DVT or PE, you will need to begin treatment immediately.
Post-Thrombotic Syndrome (PTS)
PTS is a long-term complication of deep vein thrombosis. It develops when a blood clot damages the valves in your veins and causes chronic pain, discomfort, and swelling. Symptoms of PTS can develop six months to two years after a blood clot forms, and can last for a lifetime.
Symptoms of PTS typically include:
- Skin discoloration
- Sores or ulcers on the skin
- Tingling and itching
- Pain and cramping
A vein specialist can help identify this DVT complication and recommend available treatment options.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Prevention
Awareness of common deep vein thrombosis risk factors, along with making relevant lifestyle changes, can help lower your DVT risk. However, you should be aware that these factors do not guarantee that you won’t ultimately develop DVT.
One way to make sure you have a healthy circulatory system is to take care of your veins. The following lifestyle changes and healthy habits can help prevent DVT:
- Move around throughout the day: Blood clots commonly form while travelling or for those in professions who stand or sit for long periods of time. It may be beneficial to drink plenty of water. It’s also helpful if you walk or stretch your legs at least every two hours. If you cannot move around, try performing heel-to-toe exercises or flexing your feet to stretch out your calves.
- Exercise regularly: Adhering to a regular exercise program can also help reduce your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. If you are not currently active, you can get started with something basic like walking. We recommend that you work your way up to at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Finding activities that you enjoy can help keep you motivated. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing: Tight-fitting garments can put pressure on your veins and circulatory system, which can affect the circulation in your legs. You should avoid wearing tight socks and clothes, especially when traveling.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Increased weight puts additional pressure on your veins, which contributes to poor blood flow and the development of blood clots.
- Avoid smoking: One of the best ways to prevent a blood clot is to stop smoking or using any tobacco products. Smoking not only damages your lungs, but also your veins and arteries. Nicotine — an addictive chemical in cigarettes — can restrict the body’s blood flow and harden your arteries.
- Wear graduated compression stockings: Made of much stronger elastic fibers than typical hosiery, medical-grade compression stockings create significant pressure on your legs. This can help lessen deep vein thrombosis pain and discomfort, boost venous circulation, and decrease swelling. Your doctor may advise you to wear compression socks continuously during the day and remove them when you go to sleep.
- Review your medications: Estrogen-containing medication, such as oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, may increase risk for blood clots.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment
You may be wondering how to treat deep vein thrombosis and other issues with your veins. At USA Vein Clinics, our vascular specialists aim to promote a healthy circulatory system in order to prevent the development of deep vein thrombosis. If you notice enlarged, bulging, painful veins, you may have underlying vein disease that requires treatment.
We use minimally-invasive procedures to treat the source of your vein disease. This ultimately reduces symptoms and prevents future health risks, such as DVT.
Contact USA Vein Clinics for Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment
You can avoid serious venous complications like deep vein thrombosis by taking control of your vein health today. It is easy and convenient to schedule your consultation today at the USA Vein Clinic location nearest you. We offer 90 nationwide clinics, along with virtual doctor appointments.
Our vein specialists provide individualized, non-surgical vein treatment. We can address your symptoms of varicose veins, spider veins, restless legs, and more. We look forward to helping you regain control of your life!