DVT happens when a blood clot forms in a deep vein. DVT is most common in the deep veins of your lower leg (calf), and can spread up to the veins in your thigh. DVT can also first develop in the deep veins in your thigh and, more rarely, in other deep veins, such as the ones in your arm.
Deep veins pass through the centre of your leg and are surrounded by a layer of muscle (see diagram).
When blood clots form in the superficial veins, which lie just under your skin, the condition is known as superficial thrombophlebitis. These superficial blood clots are different to DVT and are much less serious
Am I At Risk For DVT ?
You are at higher risk for DVT if you:
- Are 60 years of age or older
- Are inactive for a long period of time, such as when you are flying in an airplane, taking a long car trip or recovering in bed after surgery
- Have inherited a condition that causes increased blood clotting
- Have an injury or surgery that reduces blood flow to a body part
- Are pregnant or have recently given birth
- Are overweight or obese
- Have varicose veins
- Have cancer, even if you are being treated for it
- Are taking birth control pills or receiving hormone therapy, including for postmenopausal symptoms
- Have a central venous catheter
Symptoms of DVT
Many blood clots that cause DVT are small and don't produce any symptoms. Your body will usually be able to gradually break them down with no long-term effects.
Larger clots can partly or completely block the blood flow in your vein and cause symptoms such as:
- Swelling Of The Affected Leg
- Pain And Tenderness In The Affected Leg - You May Also Find It Difficult To Stand Properly With Your Full Weight On The Affected Leg
- A Change In The Colour Of Your Skin, For Example, Redness
- Skin That Feels Warm Or Hot To The Touch
What Medicines Are Used To Treat DVT ?
The following are the main goals in treating DVT:
- Stopping the clot from getting bigger.
- Preventing the clot from breaking off and traveling to your lungs.
- Preventing any future blood clots.
Several medicines are used to treat or prevent DVT. The most common are anticoagulants (also called blood thinners) such as warfarin or heparin. Anticoagulants thin your blood so that clots won't form. Warfarin is taken as a pill and heparin is given intravenously (in your veins). If you can't take heparin, your doctor may prescribe another kind of anticoagulant called a thrombin inhibitor.
What Other Treatments Are Used For DVT ?
If you can't take medicine to thin your blood, or if a blood thinner doesn't work, your doctor may recommend that you have a filter put into your vena cava (the main vein going back to your heart from your lower body). This filter can catch a clot as it moves through your bloodstream and prevent it from reaching your lungs. This treatment is used mostly for people who have had several blood clots travel to their lungs.
Elevation of the affected leg and compression can help reduce swelling and pain from DVT. Your doctor can prescribe graduated compression stockings to reduce swelling in your leg after a blood clot has developed. These stockings are worn from the arch of your foot to just above or below your knee. They cause a gentle compression (pressure) of your leg.
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