Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) happens when a blood clot, also called a thrombosis, forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body. They’re most common in the lower leg, thigh or pelvis and often cause leg pain or swelling. However, DVT may also occur without symptoms. Common symptoms include:
- Cramping or soreness
- Red or discolored skin
- Warm sensation
DVT can be very serious because when a blood clot in your veins breaks loose, it can travel through your body and eventually get stuck in your lungs. This is known as a pulmonary embolism and requires immediate medical treatment because it can be life-threatening. Warning signs of pulmonary embolism include:
- Abrupt shortness of breath
- Chest pain that worsens with deep breathing
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Rapid pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Coughing up blood
If you develop any sudden or unexpected symptoms of DVT or pulmonary embolism, seek immediate medical treatment.
Certain medical conditions may also increase your risk of DVT, like recent surgery of the hip, leg or abdomen, trauma or bone fracture, an extended period of sitting or bed rest, cancer, pregnancy, and varicose veins.
While smoking is more commonly associated with lung diseases, like lung cancer, you may be surprised to learn there is also a strong correlation between smoking and DVT. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, smoking has a serious and negative impact on blood vessels and the heart. It also impacts the number and quality of blood platelets in your veins. Blood platelets are small, colorless cell fragments in our blood that form clots to stop or prevent bleeding. When you have an abnormally high number of blood platelets, you have a high risk of developing DVT, blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
Smoking and deep vein thrombosis
Not only is there a connection between smoking and deep vein thrombosis, but the chance of developing a deep vein blood clot increases the more often a person smokes. Here’s why: The nicotine in cigarettes increases the number of blood platelets and makes them sticky, which means they are more likely to clump together. Blood and blood platelets that want to clump together are a dangerous situation and the main reason smoking is a risk factor for DVT.
How to lower your risk of DVT
Here are a few things you can do to lower your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis and other vein diseases:
- Stop smoking
- Engage in regular aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, hiking, jogging, swimming)
- Avoid long periods of standing or sitting
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stay hydrated
Visit a Virginia Vein Care location near you or schedule a consultation to talk to one of our skilled vein care specialists about our safe, effective deep vein thrombosis diagnosis and treatment options. We’ll work with you to determine which treatment is right for you and your specific vein care needs.