DVT: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

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Our body's circulatory system is like a highway system that runs throughout the body. Blood's ability to clot helps us stay alive. Blood clots are life savers when they help stop bleeding. A blood clot, known as an embolism, can pose a serious threat when it develops where it should not be, like in your veins, where it can hinder your blood flow.

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the third leading vascular disease after a heart attack and stroke, affecting 300,000 to 600,000 Americans every year. The Center For Disease Control (CDC) reports that DVT and PE are underdiagnosed serious conditions that are preventable and treatable if detected early.

What is Venous Thromboembolism?

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a condition when blood clots form in a vein. It includes deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis is a medical condition where blood clots form in deep veins in the body. They usually develop in the lower legs, thighs, or pelvis. DVT sometimes can occur in the arm.

Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

A pulmonary embolism happens when a DVT clot moves from the arm or leg to the lungs and then blocks some or all of the blood supply. It is a life-threatening situation that requires emergency medical attention.

The warning signs and symptoms of PE may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Higher heart rate
  • Chest pain or discomfort that usually worsens with a deep breath or coughing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Coughing up blood

Signs and Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis

DVT can occur without noticeable symptoms. About half of people may not experience symptoms at all.

The following are the most common symptoms of thrombosis:

  • Swelling in the affected area
  • Pain in the leg usually starts in the calf and feels like a muscle cramp
  • Warmth in the area that hurts
  • Redness or discolored skin
  • Enlarged veins

Complications of DVT

Complications of Deep Vein Thrombosis may include pulmonary embolism, chronic venous insufficiency, and post-thrombotic syndrome.

  • Pulmonary Embolism (PE) is the biggest threat associated with DVT. It can be fatal and necessitates immediate medical intervention.
  • Chronic Venous Insufficiency can occur following DVT of a leg vein. The valves of the leg veins fail to hold the blood against gravity, and blood remains in the vein instead of flowing back towards the heart. This results in pain and swelling in the legs.
  • Post-Thrombotic Syndrome can also occur following deep vein thrombosis of a leg vein. The blood clots damage the veins, and blood flow is reduced in the affected area, and you may notice pain, swelling, and redness. This can lead to ulcers and sores if the condition is not treated promptly. These symptoms may make it harder to walk and participate in daily activities, and in extreme cases, the person can become disabled.




Risk factors for Venous Thromboembolism

  • Age: Although DVT can occur at any age, the risk increases as you age. After age 40, the risk almost doubles every ten years.
  • Immobility or not moving for long periods: Muscle contractions help blood circulation. Being immobile slows down the blood flow through the veins in the arms and legs, raising the risk of VTE. If you remain still for long periods, such as when on bed rest when you have a cast or during a long flight or drive can increase your risk.
  • Pregnancy: Women are at higher risk for DVT during the first six weeks after delivering the baby. This may be caused due to hormones or other factors in the blood or damage to the blood vessels during delivery.
  • Obesity: Being overweight can increase the pressure in the veins in the pelvis and legs, leading to blood clots.
  • Smoking: Smoking can harm the lining of the blood vessels and make blood cells stickier, making it easier for clots to form.
  • Certain medical conditions: Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, heart diseases, cancer, stroke, varicose veins, sickle cell disease, spinal cord injuries, and trauma to the leg can all raise the risk for VTE.
  • Injury or Surgery: Injury to the veins or surgery can be potential risk factors for blood clots.
  • Family history: If you have a known family history of DVT or PE, you might be at greater risk of developing them.
  • Genetics: Research has shown that genetic changes can increase VTE risk. Some changes can make blood more likely to clot. People who inherit genetic risk factors or disorders such as factor V Leiden can have the chance of developing abnormal blood clots.
  • Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, inflammation, high cholesterol, infection in vein or blood may also lead to DVT. Sometimes, a blood clot can happen with no apparent underlying risk factor called an unprovoked VTE.

How to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis?

  • Stay active and get regular exercise: Being sedentary can increase the risk of DVT. Regular activity and exercise will boost your circulation and strengthens the muscles, which help lower risk. If you sit at desks all day for work, take frequent breaks to move around or go up and down the stairs. If you cannot get up and walk, exercise your lower legs to improve blood flow in your calves. Seated leg raises, ankle circles, and foot pumps can help.
  • Know your risks: Knowing the potential risk factors is one of the best ways to prevent DVT. 
  • Lose weight: Obesity increases the risk of DVT. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight and sticking to a regular exercise routine can help prevent DVT. 
  • Quit smoking: Smoking is bad for your vascular health.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of water helps keep blood flowing and vessels open.
  • Wear Compression Stockings: Compression stockings for deep vein thrombosis are special garments helpful in the prevention of clots. These special socks are tight at the ankle and get looser as they reach the knee. Compression prevents blood from pooling in the veins and helps keep blood flowing. These compression garments exert different levels of pressure, and your physician is the right person to recommend the right stocking for you that helps blood flow. You can scroll through the wide collection of compression stockings at Damozelle.

Being aware of the signs and potential risk factors of VTE, DVT, and PE and getting timely medical care is crucial to avoid serious consequences. Make sure to reach out to a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of venous thromboembolism without any delay.


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