Deep vein thrombosis can pose serious health risks if left untreated, and it is therefore important to be able to recognise the symptoms and take measures to treat any potential problems.
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT for short, usually involves a blood clot forming – most often in the leg – which can cause pain, swelling and can lead to further serious complications.
The deep veins in your lower leg are the most common site for DVT occurring, however the problem can also appear in the deep veins of the thigh, arms or pelvis.
Blood clots in the deep veins are more serious than normal blood clots because if they are left untreated they can lead to the fatal condition, pulmonary embolism, where a piece of the clot breaks off and travels to your lungs where it may block a blood vessel. Other complications include post thrombotic syndrome, which in the long term reduces the ability of your veins to efficiently return blood to the affected area, and limb ischemia, which although rare can cause pressure problems in the affected area.
Since DVT is very serious it is important to understand the causes and know what symptoms to look out for.
There are factors which pose the greatest risk of developing DVT; for example, if you are over the age of 60, if you are a smoker, if you are immobile or bed bound, if you are travelling and unable to move around freely, if you have experienced DVT before, if you have a family history of blood clots, if you are obese, if you have pre-existing medical conditions which make you more susceptible to blood clots or if you are a woman and on the contraceptive pill or pregnant. DVT is often associated with travelling and those with any conditions mentioned above should take extra precautions to protect against blood clots.
The symptoms to look out for with DVT are swelling in your arms or legs, pain and tenderness, difficulty standing, a change of colour in the skin to red or otherwise, and a mild fever. Even if you only suspect you may be suffering from DVT it is very important to seek medical attention straight away if you have any concerns.
DVT can be diagnosed in a number of ways, the most common being a blood test, an ultrasound or a venogram where a radiographer injects special dye into your view and takes an x-ray.
The standard treatment for DVT is an anticoagulant medicine which chances the blood chemistry to prevent clots from forming so easily, allowing your body to dissolve the existing clots over time. Compression stockings are also issued to control any future risk of clots developing.
There are a number of ways you can prevent DVT particularly if having an operation or travelling, which a health practitioner can advise you on.