What is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
DVT or deep vein thrombosis means just what the name suggests: a blood clot in one of your deep veins, such as veins along your muscles or bones.
The most common location for the occurrence of DVT is in your lower legs, although it can occur in other parts of the body. If the clot becomes dislodged and begins to travel it is no longer known as a thrombus and becomes an embolus, which depending on where it travels, may lead to a life-threatening situation.
How do I know if I have DVT?
In some cases, there are no early symptoms of DVT. That is why it is important to know your risk factors and take measures to prevent DVT from occurring if you are at risk. The primary symptom of DVT is pain in the affected area, the pain is described as a deep pain.
If the DVT is located in the calf, the pain is worse upon flexing the foot and lower leg upwards at the heel. This is known as a positive Homans sign. Your venous specialist or healthcare provider will actually perform this test upon examination.
Other DVT symptoms may include:
- tingling in surrounding areas
- skin ulcers
If the clot is in the lower leg, the leg may appear dusky or darker in color. Sometimes, skin ulcers may also occur.
If the tissues surrounding the clot become infected, redness with or without streaking may be present, and the area will become hot to the touch. You may even develop a fever.
Risk Factors for DVT
DVT has multiple causes and multiple risk factors which include the following:
- Family history of blood clots
- Poor circulation resulting from peripheral vascular disease
- Sedentary Lifestyle and prolonged crossing of the legs
- Frequent Flying
- Varicose Veins
Any condition in which blood flow is restricted may cause blood to pool in the affected area and lead to clotting. Main complications from the clot include blocking the circulation below the affected area, leading to further swelling and potential infection of the vein, an increase in the size of the clot or formation of more clots in the area, and complete loss of circulation to the area. These complications may lead to the injury and death of tissues surrounding the area.
When should I call my doctor?
If you notice any of these symptoms, call your doctor or vein specialist right away. Do not massage the area. Instead, assume bedrest to reduce the possibility of dislodging the clot. A dislodged clot can travel to the heart, lungs, or brain and cause a heart attack, pulmonary embolism, or stroke.
DVT is an emergent medical condition and should be treated right away to avoid potential life-threatening complications.
During a doctor’s visit, your doctor will take a full medical history to determine your risk factors and make an initial diagnosis of the condition. Tests will be ordered that allow for direct visualization of the clot, such as ultrasounds as well as determine the effect of the clot on circulation.
When Should I go to the ER?
Since DVT can be potentially life-threatening, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of a severe blood clot in a deep vein. Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you have leg pain or swelling, plus
- Sudden coughing, particularly with blood
- Sharp chest pain or tightness
- Pain in the shoulder, back, arm, or jaw
- Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
- Breathing pain
- Feeling lightheaded
- Rapid heartbeat
How to Prevent DVT
If you’re concerned about DVT, know there are ways to prevent it. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and quitting tobacco can reduce your risk of DVT.
See a vein specialist near you if you think you have DVT or are at risk for DVT. We at The Vein Centre in Nashville and Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, would love to help you with your venous health concerns.