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About Deep vein thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis - also known as DVT - occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein located deep inside the body. DVT is frequently found in the thigh and lower legs, but may also occur in other parts of the body. Blood clots formed in deep veins may become loose and travel through the bloodstream, eventually becoming stuck in the lungs. This is called pulmonary embolism - a potentially fatal complication of blood clots.
The most common causes of DVT are venous injury from surgery, and inflammation of blood vessels due to illness or injury.
- Age: Adults over the age of 60 are at an increased risk of blood clots. Long periods of sitting and lying down: Muscle inactivity during sitting can keep blood from circulating throughout the body, resulting in blood clots. Individuals who sit for long periods of time at their job, or individuals on bed rest may have an increased risk of blood clots in the legs.
- Obesity: Excess weight can increase pressure on the veins in the legs and pelvis. This can cause blood to clot in the lower body.
- Smoking: Smoking affects blood circulation, which may increase your risk of blood clots.
- Pregnancy: The additional weight carried by the upper body during pregnancy can put excess pressure on veins in the pelvis and legs. This can lead to blood clotting.
- Medications: Medications such as oral contraceptives (birth control pills) and hormone replacement drugs can affect your blood’s ability to clot. This may increase your risk of developing DVT.
- Heart Failure: If your heart is unable to function properly, it may be difficult to circulate blood throughout the body. This can lead to an increased risk of blood clotting.
- Pain or swelling in the affected leg (DVT rarely occurs in both legs)
- Blue or reddish skin over the affected area
- A feeling of warmth over the affected area
In some cases, DVT may produce no symptoms at all. However, if you experience symptoms such as a sudden loss of breath, chest pain, dizziness, or an irregular heartbeat, call 9-1-1 immediately. These are common signs of a pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal blood clot in the lungs.
Below is a list of common treatment options for DVT. During your appointment, discuss these with your doctor to determine the right treatment plan for you.
Blood-thinning medication is commonly prescribed to treat deep vein thrombosis, as well as other clotting disorders. These may be administered orally, or through intravenous injection (IV). Common blood-thinning drugs include:
- Enoxaparin (administered through IV)
- Fondaparinux (administered through IV)
- Heparin (an oral tablet)
- Warfarin (an oral tablet)
For severe blood clots, your doctor may order an intravenous injection of a thrombolytic - also known as a clot buster. These drugs are stronger than blood-thinners but may cause excessive bleeding. Because of this, they are generally only used when other forms of medication have failed to adequately treat the blood clot.
If you are unable to take blood-thinning medication, your doctor may surgically insert a filter into the vena cava - a large vein in the abdomen - to prevent clots that form in the legs from drifting up into the lungs.
For severe clots, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the clot from the affected vein. This procedure - known as a surgical thrombectomy - involves the operating surgeon making an incision in the blood vessel and removing the clot from that area of the body.
Compression stockings place pressure on the lower legs, which helps improve blood flow. These stockings can be purchased at medical supply stores, pharmacies, or specialist stores. In some cases, your provider may recommend prescription-strength compression stockings. These stockings can put increased pressure on the lower body but are not recommended for individuals with heart problems.