Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a serious and painful complication of the veins. In layman’s terms, it is a clot in one of the deeper veins of the body, most common in the arms and legs. Clots can form when blood pools in one location for too long, which is why people with varicose veins have a higher likelihood of getting DVT.
These clots don’t just cause pain in the legs. If they break off, they can lodge elsewhere in the body. If they get to the heart or the lungs, it can be deadly. Therefore, it’s important to get treated for DVT as soon as it is detected.
Fortunately, there are several treatments for DVT, including:
Over time, blood rushing past a clot will dissolve it. But if pooled blood sticks to the clot, it can grow bigger. Blood thinners make it harder for blood to clot and help the body remove it over time. It can also keep new clots from forming. There are many different thinners and your doctor will work with you to find the best one.
Going on blood thinners can mean that you’ll need to change your diet. Certain thinners like warfarin will stop working if you eat too much vitamin K. You may also need to get regular blood tests to measure how well the medicine is working. There are newer medicines on the market that don’t require diet changes and testing, but they can be more dangerous. Your doctor will explain the risks.
If the clot is large, not in a leg, or dangerous in some way, your doctor may also recommend catheter-directed thrombolysis. This involves injecting medicine directly into your clot to dissolve it. This is done through a catheter inserted into the vein. It requires a trip to the hospital because a dissolving clot might break up in unexpected ways and cause other health problems, including stroke. This procedure may also be combined with other treatments like angioplasty or a stent placement, depending on the condition of the vein.
Vena Cava Filters
If you’re at high risk for clotting, your doctor may recommend a vena cava filter. This is a special filter that sits in your vena cava, an important vein on your body. The purpose of the filter is to catch clots before they can reach your heart or lungs. This is a surgical procedure and may be recommended if your clots do not respond to other treatments. Once the danger of DVT has passed, you may need to get it removed.
Finally, in some cases, a doctor might recommend surgery for cutting the clot out. This is called a venous thrombectomy. This is a rare surgery and is only done in severe cases of DVT, as the surgery can increase the chances of further clots. Clots from DVT often respond very well to the other treatments, but not always.
In addition to these medical treatments, there are lifestyle changes you can do to help with your DVT. You might need to wear compression hose to reduce the pain while the clot dissolves. Moving more often will keep blood from pooling and help shrink existing clots. Ultimately, DVT is most often caused by poor circulation. Stay active and get your varicose veins treated!