Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious medical condition that occurs when a blood clot, known as a thrombus, develops in a deep vein. It can form anywhere in the body, but typically occurs in large veins in the leg that run through the muscles of the calf and thigh. The condition can cause life threatening complications if left untreated and requires immediate medical treatment. Learn more about the symptoms of DVT here.
Approximately 1 in 1000 people are affected by DVT each year in the United States. DVT occurs when blood accumulates in a deep vein and does not circulate. It can be very serious, because there is the potential for part of the blood clot in the vein to break loose and travel through the blood to another area of the body, such as the lung. In this situation, it can block the blood supply to the lungs, a condition known as a pulmonary embolism (PE), which is life threatening and requires emergency medical treatment.
Symptoms of DVT
DVT occurs most frequently in the legs, and typically affects only one leg. In some cases, DVT can occur without noticeable symptoms. If symptoms develop, they usually include the following:
- Swelling and tenderness, usually in the calf or thigh of one of the legs (swelling rarely occurs in both legs).
- Pain, such as cramping or soreness that starts in the calf; it may occur only when standing or walking.
- Warmth in the affected area.
- Red or discolored skin on the affected leg, particularly at the back of the leg, below the knee.
- Aching in the affected area.
- Pain that feels worse when the foot is bent up towards the knee.
If you develop symptoms of DVT, you should seek prompt medical care to avoid complications, such as a pulmonary embolism. The warning signs and symptoms of a PE include:
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Chest pain that may get worse with deep breathing or coughing
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, or very low blood pressure
- Irregular or faster heartbeat
- Coughing up blood
Depending on their location, an embolism (blocked artery) can cause stroke, lung damage, heart attack, or death. Call 911 or visit the emergency room immediately if you suspect you are having a stroke or heart attack.
Causes of DVT
Anything that prevents proper blood flow and clotting can lead to a blood clot. Damage to a vein, such as from trauma or surgery, and inflammation, due to an injury or infection, are the main causes of DVT. Sometimes, DVT can occur for no obvious reason.
Although anyone can develop DVT, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing the condition, including:
- Inactivity for long periods, such as following surgery or traveling on long journeys. This can cause blood flow to slow and collect in lower parts of the body
- A family history of blood clots
- Previous DVT or PE
- Being over the age of 40
- Damage to blood vessels such as through injury or surgery
- Taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or contraceptive pills
- Being overweight or obese
- Some forms of cancer
- A chronic medical illness, such as heart disease or lung disease
Treatment for DVT
The main aim of treatment is to prevent the clot from getting bigger, prevent an embolism, and reduce the chance of another DVT. Treatment will depend on the severity of the DVT, but options include:
- Blood thinning medications (anticoagulants)
- Clot busting medications (thrombolytics)
- Catheter or surgery to remove the clot
- Inferior vena cava filter (a permanent filter inserted into the vein to prevent large embolisms from entering the lungs)
- Compression stockings (to prevent DVT)
Comprehensive Vein Care in Tampa Bay, Fl
At Edward G. Mackay and Associates, LLC, we provide comprehensive and effective care for varicose veins, spider veins, and other venous diseases. Our vascular surgeon, Dr. Edward G. Mackay, and his specially trained team offer the highest quality surgical and nonsurgical treatments customized for your unique needs at our fully accredited vascular testing facilities.
To learn more about the services we offer or to schedule a consultation, call us at (727) 349-5652 or visit us at one of our three state-of-the-art locations in Tampa Bay. Alternatively, you can request an appointment online.