Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT

DVT refers to Deep Vein Thrombosis. It is a condition where there is a formation of a blood clot in a vein, which is located deep inside the body. 

The clot is formed due to the malfunctioning of a valve in the vein that slows the speed of blood flow.Deep vein thrombosis can get dangerous if not treated on time, as the clot can dislodge itself and travel towards the lungs leading to pulmonary embolism. 

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What is Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT?

A Blood clot or thrombosis forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can occur without any symptoms. 

Leg pain and swelling are commonly seen. Medical conditions and inactivity after going through physical injuries, confinement to the bed are few major causes of DVT.

Blood clots in your veins can break loose, travel through your bloodstream, and lodge in your lungs, blocking blood flow. This condition is called pulmonary embolism. 

PE is a very serious condition. It can damage the lungs and other organs in the body and cause death. This makes DVT a serious condition that needs medical attention.

What are the causes of DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis can form if you have certain medical conditions that affect the way your blood circulates or clots. 

Being immobile for a very long time can also cause DVTs, such as after surgery or an accident, or when you're confined to bed.

Risk factors that make you prone to DVT are:
  • Inheriting a blood clotting disorder or DVT​
  • Prolonged bed rest or paralysis
  • Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) or hormone replacement therapy
  • Injury to your veins or surgery
  • Cancer
  • Smoking
  • Being obese

What are the symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?

Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) might be related to DVT itself or pulmonary embolism (PE). Only about half of the people who have DVT have signs and symptoms. 

Some people aren't aware of a deep vein clot until they have signs and symptoms of PE. These signs and symptoms occur in the leg affected by the deep vein clot. They include:

  • Swelling of the leg, or along a vein in the leg
  • Pain or tenderness in the leg, which you may feel only when standing or walking
  • Increased warmth in the area of the leg that's swollen or painful
  • Red or discolored skin on the leg

Pulmonary Embolism

Signs and symptoms of PE include:

  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Pain with deep breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fast heart rate

    What happens if Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is left untreated?

    If DVT is left untreated it can lead to many serious complications that could even be life-threatening. There are two main complications of deep vein thrombosis. These are:

    • Pulmonary embolism: The close from your leg is carried by the blood to your lungs causing a blockage. This is a life-threatening situation that is characterized by sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid pulse, coughing blood, etc.
    • Post phlebitic syndrome: Also known as post-thrombotic syndrome. This is characterized by persistent swelling of the legs, skin sores, and pain.

    How can one prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis?

    A few measures to prevent deep vein thrombosis are:

    • Regular exercise which lowers chances of DVT​Avoid sitting still, especially after surgery. 
    • The doctor will advise you to move as much as possible primarily to avoid DVT
    • Watching your weight
    • Eating a healthy, high-fiber diet

    How is Deep Vein Thrombosis diagnosed?

    Physical examination by a doctor is required to diagnose deep vein thrombosis. Post examination, Depending on how likely you are to have a blood clot, your doctor might suggest tests, including:

    • Ultrasound​
    • Blood Test
    • Venogram
    • CT or MRI scans

    What are the treatment options for Deep Vein Thrombosis?

    Based on the observations of the doctor and results from the diagnostic tests, the doctor will decide to use a medical line of treatment or a surgical line of treatment to treat DVT. 

    Medical Intervention:

    Blood thinners: Anticoagulants, also called blood thinners, decrease your blood’s ability to clot. 

    This however will not get rid of the existing clot but will prevent the clot from becoming bigger and reduce the risk of forming new clots. 

    Clot busters: These are used in more severe cases of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. The doctor administers medication that will break the clot. 

    The clot busters are administered through an IV line or directly at the clot through a catheter. 

    Filters: If you are unable to take blood thinners, then a filter is used to prevent the clot from reaching the lungs if it does get dislodged. 

    The filter is placed in a big vein called the vena cava in your abdomen through which the clot would otherwise pass to get to the lungs. Once placed, the filter will block the clot at this point and not let it pass.

    Compression stockings: This helps reduces the swelling associated with deep vein thrombosis.

    Surgical treatment options for deep vein thrombosis:

    If the medical line of treatment fails, then the doctor will have to depend on the surgical line of treatment.

    Venous thrombectomy: This is a type of procedure used to remove a clot that has formed inside an artery or veins. 

    The surgeon performs this procedure to restore the blood flow through a blocked blood vessel and repair the blood vessel.

     In some cases, a stent may be placed to keep the vessel open enabling blood to flow smoothly.

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