Deep Vein Thrombosis - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis?

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 of 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. When the valves of the larger veins in the superficial system fail (the greater and lesser saphenous veins), blood can 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.

Deep Venous Thrombosis

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 leg.

Historically, healthcare providers would try to elicit a couple of clinical findings to make a diagnosis. 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.

Return to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Angel, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 02

I had really bad swelling of my left leg, but it did not cause a lot of pain, mostly a pressure type felling, also my left foot was red, and my entire leg was warm and cold at different times. It happened after a double bypass was done and the vein in my left leg was used. It took less than a month for the clot to bother me enough to get me to go to the doctor. So if you have any of these symptoms don't wait, hurry to the hospital. After all test and removal of blood clot I was told I had deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

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Comment from: Denis, 19-24 Male (Patient) Published: May 12

I"m a 23 years old boy. I had a rugby injury when I was 15 year of age and they diagnosed me with acute deep vein thrombosis (DVT) on my calf right leg. Since then I have been taking warfarin and testing my INR (internal normalized ratio). After the first year I had a couple of DVTs, and my leg started to turn dark around my ankle up to my calf. I"ve been in and out the hospital that year, the following year I had pains in my stomach and went in to the hospital. Ultra sound was done and the doctor removed my appendix due to blood clots. While I was in hospital the pain got worse, I went in for other scans and ultra sounds, and the doctor found that my spleen also contained blood clots and that they have to remove my spleen. It was removed and I was in ICU for 2 weeks after which I recovered and went home. Since then the DVT returns regularly every year even though I take my warfarin; they found blood clots in my stomach and this spread to my lungs. The DVT went to my left leg which also started to turn dark and swollen. I wear my elastic stockings permanently. DVT changed my whole life, it is not easy to go on being normal. I feel embarrassed when walking around with shorts, this has also resulted in a lack of self-confidence but I have to adapt to my circumstances, and made the best out of it. But as the years went past I've learnt that the best thing to do is be positive and exercise as much as you can.

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