What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis and How Is It Diagnosed?

by | Jul 23, 2020 | Blog, Venous Disease | 0 comments

As many as 900,000 people in the U.S. are affected by deep vein thrombosis every year. Even worse, an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 people die due to deep vein thrombosis. Considering these troubling statistics, it’s important to know what deep vein thrombosis is, and how to spot it when it happens.

Keep reading for a full rundown on deep vein thrombosis.

What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, happens when a blood clot forms in one of your body’s deep veins. This typically happens in the legs.

Deep vein thrombosis can cause your leg to swell up, and is accompanied by pain. This pain can often be debilitating. You’re more susceptible to deep vein thrombosis if you have certain medical conditions, or if you’re confined to your bed after surgery or an accident.

While it’s most common to find them in your legs, they can be present in other locations as well. For example, hemorrhoids are varicose veins in the rectal region. About one in 20 Americans suffer from hemorrhoids.

The Dangers of DVT

Deep vein thrombosis becomes potentially deadly if the blood clot breaks loose and travels through your bloodstream.

This can cause the blood clot to get caught in your lungs. If this happens it inhibits blood flow, known as a pulmonary embolism. In the worst cases, this could lead to death.

What Are the Warning Signs of Deep Vein Thrombosis?

There are a few typical symptoms and warning signs to look out for when it comes to DVT. These include:

  • Leg pain. This pain may start in the calf. It starts as a cramping feeling, and often feels sore
  • Discolored, red leg skin
  • Warmth in the affected leg, often accompanied by pain and discoloration.
  • Foot and ankle pain that can’t be explained
  • Swelling in the leg, ankle, foot

It’s important to note that DVT doesn’t always present symptoms. Many people discover they have DVT after orthopedic or other surgical procedures. If you see any symptoms or suspect DVT, it’s important to visit a doctor as fast as possible.

You can also get upper extremity DVT — DVT in the arm. Some symptoms of this include:

  • Shoulder & neck pain
  • Arm & hand swelling
  • Blue-colored skin
  • Moving pain from the arm to the forearm
  • Hand weakness

Again, it’s important to visit the doctor ASAP if you notice any of these symptoms without another explanation. Deep vein thrombosis in the arm is much less common than in the lower extremity and can usually be directly related to a procedure or indwelling intravenous line in the arm.

What Causes Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis is medical term for referring to a blood clot in the leg. To get to the source of the issue, though, we have to look at how these blood clots form.

Sometimes, surgery or a direct injury can damage blood vessels. This increases the chances of a blood clot developing, although direct damage to a blood vessel is uncommon. More commonly, blood clots may form if you’ve had a surgery that leaves you in bed or if you are immobilized following an illness.

Age — particularly, being over 60 — increases your chance of blood clots.

Inactivity can cause blood to collect in your legs, leading to a blood clot. This can happen if you work a desk job and don’t move your legs enough, if you’re generally inactive, or if you can’t move due to an injury.

Pregnancy raises your chance of a blood clot, as it increases pressure in the veins in your legs. You can also inherit blood-clotting disorders from your relatives.

Some medications explicitly increase the chances of blood clots, including certain types of birth control. Ask your doctor if any of your medications have this effect.

Finally, obesity and smoking also increase your chances of developing DVT. Being overweight means more pressure on your veins and legs, while smoking affects your circulation.

As you can see, there are a lot of different factors that can cause DVT. Familiarize yourself with them to best avoid developing DVT.

Do Varicose Veins Have Any Relation to DVT?

Research shows us that varicose veins may increase the chances of getting DVT.

Varicose veins are enlarged, sometimes twisted,  swollen veins. You can see and feel them under the skin. They are most common in the legs, but can happen almost anywhere.

People with varicose veins are around five times more likely to develop DVT, according to one study. As already noted, overweight people are more likely to get varicose veins, as well as people over the age of 65 — both of these factors also increase the chances of DVT.

If you have varicose veins, see how Virginia Vein Care can help you treat them.

Treating & Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis

The best way to prevent DVT from ever happening is to stay active.

Make sure to exercise your legs every day. If you have a desk job, or tend to sit for long periods of time, stand up and move your legs occasionally. Raise your knees, do ankle circles, and take walks when you can.

You can also wear graduated compression stockings. These fit snugly on your feet, and less tightly as they go up the leg. They help prevent blood from pooling in the legs, thus increasing blood flow and preventing blood clots. These are usually only necessary if you’re at high risk of DVT.

Treating DVT

If you have DVT, a doctor may prescribe a blood thinner to help solve the problem.

Blood thinners reduce your chances of clotting and keep existing clots from growing. If you are hospitalized, your doctor may also prescribe thrombolytic drugs, which break up blood clots. This is an intravenous solution.

As mentioned before, compression stockings are another common prevention and treatment method. Your doctor may recommend you start wearing them.

In some cases, the doctor will install a filter into your vena cava, a large abdominal vein. Doing this prevents clots from moving into your lungs. The filter is often removed after a period of time, as they can increase your chances of DVT if left in too long.

If you want to learn how to treat varicose veins — a cause for DVT — click here.

Deep Vein Thrombosis: Know the Signs

The more you know about deep vein thrombosis, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with it. Stay active, watch your weight, and find out if you have a family history of DVT. Familiarize yourself with this article and know when you should get checked for DVT.

Virginia Vein Care is here to help treat your varicose, spider veins, and more. If you have any questions about varicose and spider vein treatment, visit our FAQ.