A deep venous thrombosis is a blood clot in a deep vein in the body. A blood clot is also called a thrombus, hence the name. Most often, a deep venous thrombosis occurs in a vein of the leg, but it can also occur in a different deep vein. In this article, the focus will be on a blood clot in the leg. A deep venous thrombosis occurs in about 1 out of 1000 people in the general population.
There are different factors and situations that increase the risk of having a deep venous thrombosis. Among the most common are immobilization (during sickness, long flights etc. ), blood disorders, surgery, having cancer, some medications (like oral contraceptive pills), blood vessel injury, pregnancy, being overweight or obese, smoking, or having a genetic predisposition to blood clots.
As mentioned beforehand, typical signs of having a deep venous thrombosis are pain and swelling. Redness and warmth can also occur. Most symptoms, however, are nonspecific and can occur in many situations. It can also happen that there are no signs or symptoms at all.
How is it diagnosed?
The diagnosis of a deep venous thrombosis is done via a certain type of ultrasound in combination with a blood test. This this way, the blood flow through the vessels can be measured.
A deep venous thrombosis can be treated. There are three main goals: preventing the blood clot from getting bigger, preventing the blood clot from traveling through your bloodstream to the lungs, and reducing your risk of further blood clots.
Treatment involves some kind of heparin, which prevents more blood clots from forming. This works almost immediately. After this treatment, other kinds of anticoagulation medication are prescribed. There are different kinds depending on your current condition, and they prevent further formation of blood clots in the long term. Rarely, a blood clot must be treated with surgery, where the clot has to be removed, thus relieving symptoms and reducing chances of complications.
A deep venous thrombosis can be very dangerous. A blood clot in the leg can travel through your bloodstream to other organs and are possibly fatal when they reach the lungs. Here they can cause a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that traveled to the lungs), causing an obstruction of the blood flow. Signs of a pulmonary embolism are having trouble breathing, acute shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up blood, and fainting. Other complications include recurrent deep venous thrombosis or post-thrombotic syndrome.
During a period of immobilization, such as during a long flight or when you have to stay in bed for long periods, doing leg exercises once an hour can reduce your risk of forming a blood clot. Moving around and getting up can also help. It can also be prevented by wearing compression stockings. These are stockings that run from your foot or toes until your knee or a little above it. They help blood circulate back more easily to the heart. It also helps to drink enough water and avoiding alcohol and other instances that may cause dehydration.
All in all, deep venous thrombosis can be preventable. If you know you’re at risk for a DVT and feel certain related symptoms, a visit to your doctor is advisable.