Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is not a life-threatening condition if it is detected and treated in the early stages.
The severity of DVT stems from its potential consequences, which are essentially:
- Thrombosis and embolism in the lung despite therapy
- Hemorrhage caused by medication (blood thinners)
With effective care, the chance of complications is less than two percent in the first week and less than five percent in the first three months.
Most patients are treated at home with anticoagulants. DVT can sometimes become a serious medical issue because any delay or lack of treatment can cause permanent damage to the leg and lead to other life-threatening health disorders, such as pulmonary embolism (presence of a blood clot in the lungs).
A pulmonary embolism can help prevent and treat early signs and symptoms. A blood clot in the leg can resolve on its own in many situations. However, sometimes, the clot simply gets bigger or worse, it breaks off from the original site and travels toward the lungs. A blood clot in the lung can cause serious damage to the oxygenation process and trigger a shock. In such cases, it may be fatal.
What is DVT?
A blood clot in a deep vein of the body, generally in the thigh or leg, is called deep vein thrombosis. The deep veins are the primary blood vessels that return blood from the body's tissues to the heart. If a blood clot develops in a deep vein, it can obstruct blood flow and prevent tissues from draining adequately.
The clot triggers a local inflammatory response, causing warmth and pain in the leg:
- A blood clot in a deep vein may potentially rupture and travel to the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism.
- Pulmonary embolism can be severe, causing trouble breathing, severe chest discomfort, and even death.
- In rare situations, clots can move through the heart and return to the rest of the body, including the brain.
- A blood clot that follows this route to the brain can result in a stroke.
8 symptoms of DVT
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is virtually invariably one-sided. Bilateral DVT is uncommon, and bilateral symptoms are more likely to be caused by another condition, such as chronic venous insufficiency or heart failure.
- Throbbing or cramping pain in one leg (rarely both legs), usually in the calf or thigh
- Swelling in the leg
- Warm skin around the painful area
- Swollen veins that are hard or sore to touch
- Red or darkened skin around the painful area (color changes)
- Chest pain
- Tenderness to the calf (particularly over the site of the deep veins)
3 basic causes of DVT
- Damage to the vein wall may occur in a variety of circumstances, including recent surgery, accidents, varicose veins, and falls or other sorts of trauma.
- Lack of blood movement (also called stasis) due to staying in one position for long (e.g., air travel or having the leg in a cast)
- Predisposition to form clot called hypercoagulability (smokers, genetic predisposition, those on oral contraceptive pills, certain cancers)
16 risk factors of DVT
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is most common in adults older than 60 years, but it can occur at any age
- A pacemaker catheter that has been passed through the vein in the groin
- Bed rest or sitting in one position for too long
- Family history of blood clots
- Fractures in the pelvis or legs
- Giving birth within the last six months
- Recent surgery (most commonly the hip, knee, or female pelvic surgery)
- Too many blood cells being made by the bone marrow, causing the blood to be thicker than normal (polycythemia vera)
- Having an indwelling (long-term) catheter in a blood vessel
- Cancer patients
- Patients with certain autoimmune disorders, such as lupus
- Cigarette smoking
- Taking estrogens or birth control pills (this risk is even higher with smoking)
- Sitting for long periods when traveling can increase the risk for DVT. This is most likely when you also have one or more of the listed risk factors.
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What are the treatment options for deep vein thrombosis?
The aim of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) treatment is to keep the blood clot from becoming bigger or moving to the lungs, prevent post-thrombotic syndrome, and lower your risk of acquiring a DVT again.
- Blood thinners
- Anticoagulants are widely used to treat DVTs (called blood thinners). These medications, whether injected or administered orally, reduce the capacity of the blood to clot.
- Blood thinner medications are often taken for three months or longer and should be taken exactly as prescribed by the doctor.
- The doctor may recommend self-care to relieve symptoms
- Propping up (elevating) the leg
- Compression stockings
- Compression stockings are placed on the legs to minimize swelling caused by DVT.
- The stockings apply pressure to prevent additional blood pooling and clotting and should be worn for at least two hours every day.
- Endovascular thrombectomy
- The objective is to break up the clot as quickly as possible, restore blood flow inside the vein and enhance the odds of preserving valve function to reduce the risk of post-thrombotic syndrome.
- A catheter is frequently inserted into a vein situated behind the knee or another leg vein using imaging guidance.
- The catheter is inserted into the clogged vein, its tip is inserted directly into the clot and a “clot-busting” medication is injected directly into the thrombus (clot).
- The clot usually disappears in one to two days.
- Doctors will use venography (an imaging examination of the veins) to detect additional constriction and treat it with clot maceration, balloon angioplasty, or stent implantation.
- Clot busters
- For more serious kinds of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism or if other treatments are not sufficiently effective, you may be administered clot busters or thrombolytics, which are medications designed to break up clots quickly.
- These are frequently administered via an intravenous line to break up blood clots or via a catheter inserted directly into the clot.
- Doctors may administer the medicine and then insert a mechanical vacuum catheter to suck out any leftover clots or to break them apart.
- Filters are frequently utilized as an alternate treatment option when drugs cannot be supplied to thin the blood.
- Filters are put into a big vein in the abdomen called the vena cava. This filter is a little device that works like a colander to trap blood clots while allowing regular liquid blood to pass through, preventing clots from getting lodged in the lungs.
- This method is incredibly successful. If both clot busters and filters are required, they are usually injected at the same time.
In selected cases of DVT, clot removal using interventional catheter-directed thrombolysis may enhance your quality of life, prevent the debilitating condition of post-thrombotic syndrome, and decrease re-hospitalization and re-intervention.
Deep vein thrombosis may affect anybody. Learn to recognize the warning symptoms of deep vein thrombosis and prevent it from becoming a problem.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Academy of Family Physicians. Deep Vein Thrombosis. https://familydoctor.org/condition/deep-vein-thrombosis/
Better Health. Deep vein thrombosis. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/deep-vein-thrombosis
Stony Brook Medicine. Deep Vein Thrombosis. https://vein.stonybrookmedicine.edu/disease/deep-vein-thrombosis
Carle Health. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). https://carle.org/conditions/heart-and-vascular-conditions/deep-vein-thrombosis-(dvt)
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