Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT, Blood Clot in the Legs)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideDVT in Pictures: Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis, Beyond Leg Pain and More

DVT in Pictures: Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis, Beyond Leg Pain and More

What are the signs and symptoms of deep venous thrombosis (DVT)?

The symptoms of deep vein thrombosis are related to obstruction of blood returning to the heart and causing a backup of blood in the leg. Classically, symptoms include:

  • pain,
  • swelling,
  • warmth, and
  • redness.

Not all of these symptoms have to occur. One, all, or none may be present with a deep vein thrombosis. The symptoms may mimic an infection or cellulitis of the arm or leg.

In the past health-care professionals would try to elicit a couple of clinical findings to make a diagnosis of a DVT in the leg. Dorsiflexion of the foot (pulling the toes towards the nose, or Homans' sign) and Pratt's sign (squeezing the calf to produce pain), have not been found effective in making a diagnosis. Now, health-care professionals don't usually rely upon whether these signs are present to make the diagnosis or decide that a DVT does not exist.

What are the signs and symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis?

Blood clots in the superficial vein system most often occur due to trauma to the vein which causes a small blood clot to form. Inflammation of the vein and surrounding skin causes the symptoms similar to any other type of inflammation including

  • redness,
  • warmth,
  • tenderness, and
  • swelling.

Often the affected vein can be palpated (felt) as a firm, thickened cord. There may be inflammation that follows the course of part of the vein.

Although there is inflammation, there is no infection.

Varicosities can predispose to superficial thrombophlebitis and varicose veins. This occurs when the valves of the larger veins in the superficial system fail (the greater and lesser saphenous veins), allowing blood to back up and cause the veins to swell and become distorted or tortuous. The valves fail when veins lose their elasticity and stretch. This can be due to age, prolonged standing, obesity, pregnancy, and genetic factors.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/16/2016

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