Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot (thrombus) that forms in a deep vein—usually in the legs, thighs, pelvis, or sometimes the arms.
DVT is a serious condition because deep blood clots can break away from the vein and block blood flow in your lungs (known as pulmonary embolism), or cause symptoms similar to a heart-attack. DVT can also damage the valves in your veins (post-thrombotic syndrome) which can lead to swelling, pain, skin discoloration, and severe conditions like ulcers.
Symptoms of DVT
It’s important to know the symptoms of DVT and pulmonary embolism. Contact a medical professional immediately if you experience these symptoms:
- Leg swelling (edema)
- Leg pain
- Increased warmth in your leg
- Discoloration of the skin
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
- Rapid heart rate
- Chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing or coughing
- Low blood pressure
Your doctor will diagnose DVT with a physical exam, a review of your medical history, and various imaging techniques. Ultrasound is the most common imaging technique used to diagnose DVT, but your doctor may also perform a venogram X-ray, MRI, or CT scan. A D-dimer test, which tests specifically for the presence of blood clots, may also be done.
DVT treatment aims to stop the clot from growing, prevent it from breaking away from the vein wall, remove it, and prevent any recurrence. DVT treatments include:
- Anticoagulants (blood thinners). These medications can keep clots from getting bigger and help prevent new clots from forming.
- Thrombolytic therapy. This treatment can dissolve a blood clot intravenously or with a direct injection into the clot, but this treatment is only used in emergency situations because there is a large risk of serious bleeding.
- Filters. A filter can be surgically put into the large vena cava vein in your abdomen to stop any loose blood clots from travelling to your lungs.
- Compression stockings. Compression stockings help boost blood circulation and prevent blood from pooling in your veins and forming clots. Your doctor may prescribe compression stockings with other treatments. The length of time you will be required to wear compression stockings varies, but could be as long as two years.
You can lower your risk of developing DVT by:
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding long periods of sitting and moving every 2-3 hours
The cost of treating DVT can vary depending on your area, physician, and insurance coverage.