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April 25, 2019 | OB/GYN
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which a blood clot forms in a vein deep within the body. DVT occurs in the thigh, lower leg or pelvis, but it can occur anywhere in the body that a vein travels. DVT can also have severe and even fatal consequences. For instance, if the clot breaks free and travels up the bloodstream, it may block the flow of blood to the lungs. This type of complication—called a pulmonary embolism—is rare. However, because DVT can be so dangerous, doctors focus on prevention.
Several risk factors may lead to the development of DVT, the two biggest of which are surgery involving the hips or legs and injury to the lower body. Injury and surgery can contribute to the development of DVT by (1) slowing your blood flow, (2) causing damage to the veins and (3) causing hypercoagulation, which is excessive blood clotting.
That said, you don’t have to have sustained an injury or undergone surgery to develop thrombosis. You may develop the condition if you present one or more of the following risk factors:
DVT may cause symptoms in the area of the body that it affects. Some symptoms of DVT include the following:
However, many patients do not present any noticeable symptoms. This is important to keep in mind, especially if you have any of the risk factors.
The symptoms of pulmonary embolism are much more obvious, but unfortunately for some individuals, these symptoms are the first signs of DVT they notice:
If you suspect you have deep vein thrombosis and notice any of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. A doctor can run the necessary tests, which may include ultrasounds, MRI and venography to make an accurate diagnosis. An accurate diagnosis is necessary for treatment.
Because DVT usually develops after surgery or an injury to the leg, most individuals are already in the hospital when a healthcare professional first notices and diagnoses the condition. Regardless of where you are upon diagnosis, though, your doctor will recommend a specific course of treatment. More often than not, doctors recommend anticoagulants, which thin the blood to prevent further clotting and dissolve existing clots. However, depending on your risk factors, anticoagulants may not be an option.
If anticoagulants aren’t an option, your doctor may recommend strict monitoring via ultrasound scans of the affected area. Depending on what your doctor discovers, he or she may prescribe thrombolytics (clot-dissolving medications).
If you notice symptoms of DVT, or if you are at high risk for developing the condition, talk to your doctor about what you can do to prevent it. Preventive action may just save your life.
“Venous Thromboembolism.” National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/venous-thromboembolism
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.