What is deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that occurs in a vein. While it can form anywhere in the body it is much more common to happen in the leg. It causes swelling, a red patch or an ache in the leg, and can be dangerous if the clot reaches a vital organ. It can be treated with anticoagulant medication.
What are the symptoms of DVT?
DVT can be dangerous so if you think you have it, you should get medical help as soon as possible. Symptoms include:
- A swollen leg (usually one, very rarely both)
- Painful calf or thigh that throbs or cramps
- The painful area is warm to touch
- Red or darkened skin around the area that is painful
- Swollen veins that are painful to touch
- Hard veins in the leg
These symptoms are not only restricted to your legs, they can appear anywhere in the body where the blood clot is.
Who is at risk of DVT?
You are more at risk of developing DVT if you:
- are over 60
- are overweight
- have had DVT before
- have varicose veins
- are a smoker
- are on the contraceptive pill
- take hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
You also have a risk of developing DVT is you are confined to bed for long periods of time or if you can’t move around very much for other reasons. Some people can be more at risk of this condition if they are sat down for too long (more than 3 hours) during journeys by plane, car or train.
How is DVT diagnosed?
You will normally have an ultrasound done so a doctor can see if the blood is flowing normally through the vein. Some people have an X-ray done instead. A dye is injected into the body so a doctor can see the blood flow easier.
How is DVT treated?
Treatment usually consists of taking anticoagulant medication, also known as blood-thinners which you will probably take in tablet-form for the next 3 months. If your doctor thinks this isn’t suitable you might have to have a filter put into the vena cava vein to prevent it from reaching your heart and lungs.
There is a newer treatment available which involves breaking up and removing the clot through the use of a small tube that is guided through the vein.
After receiving treatment you will need to make some lifestyle adjustments to help you recover and prevent it from coming back. It is advised that you walk frequently, try to raise your leg when you are sat and not travel on a plane until your doctor tells you it is safe to do so. You should also work towards maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and drinking plenty of fluids in the longterm.