Deep Vein Thrombosis

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the term for a deep blood clot, usually in the leg. A Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is easily treatable but requires immediate attention. It can be life-threatening if a piece of the clot breaks off and gets stuck in a major blood vessel, limiting blood flow to the lungs. While DVT is most often found it the leg, it can form elsewhere in the body too.

What causes Deep Vein Thrombosis?

When blood moves too slowly through your veins, it can form a clump of blood cells called a clot. We use the term DVT when the clot forms in a vein deep inside your body (eg in the lower leg, thigh or pelvis). Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) can happen at any age, but your risk is greater after age 40.

Any time your lower legs stay in the same position for a long time, making it hard for the blood to circulate, there’s an increased risk of DVT. Some common causes include:

  • Travel – sitting for long periods on a flight or car journey.

  • Bed rest – after an operation or a long hospital stay. 

  • Damage to a vein – as a result of a broken bone, surgery, catheter or other trauma.

  • Serious health issues – cancer and certain other diseases and genetic conditions can cause your blood to clot more easily.

  • Blood disorders – some blood disorders can cause your blood to clot more than normal.

  • Pregnancy – carrying a baby puts more pressure on the veins in your legs and pelvis.

  • Hormones – taking medications containing estrogen (eg birth control and hormone replacement therapy) will increase your risk of clots. 

  • Smoking – harms the lining of blood vessels and makes blood cells stickier, increasing the risk of clots.

  • Obesity – people with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 have a higher chance of DVT.

What are the symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) can occur with no symptoms at all. Or you might notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Leg or arm swelling that comes on without warning

  • Pain or soreness when you stand or walk

  • Warmth along the affected vein

  • Skin that looks red or blue

How is Deep Vein Thrombosis diagnosed?

You should see a doctor immediately if you are concerned you may have a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). A vascular surgeon will then perform tests and examine you. Tests may include a blood test and an ultrasound to measure the blood flow through your arteries and veins. If DVT is confirmed, your doctor will plan your treatment with you.

How is Deep Vein Thrombosis treated?

The first step in treating a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is to stop the clot getting bigger and breaking off towards your lungs; and to prevent more clots forming.

Common methods of treatment include:

Blood thinners

Blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants, may be prescribed. These decrease your blood’s ability to clot. Over time, your body works with the blood thinners to decrease the size and consistency of the Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Blood thinners can increase your chance of bleeding, so careful follow-up with your vascular surgeon is necessary.

Thrombolytic therapy

If your DVT is large or causing severe symptoms, your vascular surgeon may use strong medication called thrombolytics to dissolve the clot quickly. These can have serious side effects like sudden bleeding so are only used when strictly necessary.

Inferior vena cava (IVC) filter

If blood thinners don’t work (or you can’t take them), your doctor may insert a small filter inside your inferior vena cava, one of the largest veins in your body. The filter can prevent a large clot from entering your lungs.

How do I prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Staying healthy can reduce your risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).  Try these simple everyday lifestyle choices to keep your circulation moving: 

  • Keep moving – Stay as mobile as possible, especially if you’ve been unwell or after surgery. Get out of bed and move around. Ask your doctor about wearing compression stockings.

  • Travel smart - Don’t sit for too long when you’re travelling. Take breaks, stretch your legs, wear loose clothing and drink plenty of water.

  • Be heathy – maintain a healthy weight and quit smoking.

  • Get checked – Seek treatment for any medical problems or infections and take medication as prescribed.

  • Stay informed – Make sure you ask about the risks and benefits of staying on blood thinners if you’ve ever had a DVT.

Talk to your doctor about Deep Vein Thrombosis

If you have any concerns about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), speak to the team at Vascular Associates.