What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in one of the deep veins in the body. Deep veins are beneath layers of tissue and muscle, whereas superficial veins are below the skin’s surface. When a blood clot (thrombus) develops in a deep vein, such as in the legs, it can cause leg pain or swelling. Either damaged veins or slow blood flow in the veins can cause DVT, along with other risk factors.
Those at risk of DVT have pre-existing medical conditions that affect how the blood clots. In addition, inactive lifestyles can also lead to blood clots. Typically, DVT has no noticeable symptoms and can be challenging to detect. Therefore, doctors will focus on preventing the development of DVT.
If blood clots in deep veins break loose, they can travel through the bloodstream, become stuck in the lungs, and block blood flow, a condition known as pulmonary embolism (PE). Although rare, pulmonary embolism can be fatal.
Get tested for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – and begin treatment ASAP
What Causes Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Since blood clots lead to DVT, anything that causes blood to flow or clot improperly can cause deep vein thrombosis.
Furthermore, damage to a vein from surgery or damage and inflammation due to an infection or injury are the leading causes of deep vein thrombosis.
DVT can occur in any deep vein, though it commonly forms in the pelvis, calf, or thigh veins.
Risk Factors For Developing Peripheral Artery Disease
Smoking and tobacco use increases the risk of heart disease by up to 4 times higher. In addition, smoking damages your blood vessels and makes them sticky, which increases the risk of blood clots.
Those over 60 have a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, though anyone can develop it.
A body mass index (BMI) over 30 strains blood veins in the pelvis and legs. To lower your risk, aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
An inherited disorder called factor V Leiden changes one of the clotting factors in the blood. This DNA change can cause blood to clot more easily. However, genetic predisposition on its own may not cause blood clots. Other DVT risk factors may also need to be present.
A sedentary lifestyle contributes to a higher risk of blood clots. When leg and calf muscles contract with leg movement, it promotes blood flow, which decreases the risk of DVT. Therefore, decreased muscle contractions and movement lead to poor blood flow and the risk of DVT. Since movement is a controllable risk factor, you can reduce risk by making lifestyle adjustments.
Cancer, heart failure, and inflammatory bowel disease all increase the risk of developing blood clots and DVT.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Symptoms
- Leg swelling
- Distended veins
- Firmness or vein thickening
- Leg cramping or soreness, often from the calf
- Red or purple skin discoloration, depending on skin color
- Abnormal leg warmth
Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment Options
There are many treatment options available to you at Michigan Vascular. Schedule a free consultation to see what options are best for you.
Blood thinners (anticoagulants): Medicines, called anticoagulants, reduce the risk of developing more blood clots and help prevent current blood clots from becoming larger. These medicines can be taken orally, by IV, or through injection.
Clot busters (thrombolytics): For more serious cases of DVT, or if other medications don’t work, clot busters can be administered through IV or a catheter placed into the clot. However, thrombolytics can cause serious bleeding and are reserved for severe blood clots.
Filters: In some cases, patients cannot take medicine. As an alternative, the doctor will place a filter into a large vein in the belly called the vena cava. The filter will prevent blood clots from moving into the lungs. However, doctors rarely recommend a vena cava filter.
Compression stockings: Compression socks, in general, improve blood circulation, prevent blood from pooling in the legs, and reduce swelling. Those who have DVT may need to wear them during the day for a few years.