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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Deep Vein Thrombosis is a serious medical condition which occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body. This typically affects the thigh or the lower legs, though it can be found in other body parts too. If not diagnosed timely and treated adequately, deep vein thrombosis can be life-threatening.

When blood moves slowly through the veins, it can accumulate together and cause a clump of blood cells known as a clot. DVT typically causes leg pain and swelling as symptoms but the condition can also occur without showing any signs or symptoms unless it becomes critical. Deep vein thrombosis can develop as a result of certain medical conditions, and can also develop following a long-period of non-movement due to surgery or an accident or bed confinement. The condition can become fatal if the blood clots in the veins break loose and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs and block the flow of blood. The condition is also known as pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis

Not everyone who has DVT will experience symptoms; some people might develop the problem without any particular signs and symptoms. That said, some of the common symptoms associated with DVT include:

  • Swelling in the affected leg
  • Swelling in the foot, ankle but typically only on one side
  • Cramping pain starting in the calf of the affected leg
  • Unexplained and intense pain in the foot and ankle
  • A particular area which feels warmer than the surrounding areas
  • The skin of the affected area turning pale, reddish or blue

However, patients with a blood clot in the upper arm may not experience these symptoms but will show other signs such as:

  • Neck pain
  • Pain in the shoulders
  • Swollen arms and hands
  • Bluish skin
  • Shifting pain from the arm to the forearm
  • Weakness in hand and loss of grip

In some patients, deep vein thrombosis can go on for a long period until they undergo treatment for a pulmonary embolism in the lungs which is a consequence of the blood clot breaking loose and travelling to the lungs.

Some warning signs of pulmonary embolism include:

  • Acute shortness of breath
  • Chest pain which intensifies upon breathing or coughing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Coughing up blood
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness or feeling faintish

Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis

DVT is typically caused by a blood clot which prevents the proper flow of blood in the body. The clotting may occur for several reasons, some include the below:

  • Injury, which can damage the walls of the blood vessels, resulting in narrowing or blocking of blood flow.
  • Surgery which damages the blood vessels can cause blood clots. Also, restricted movement or bed riddance post-surgery can cause blood clots.
  • Reduced mobility or sever inactivity
  • Certain medications

Risk Factors of Deep Vein Thrombosis

Many factors can increase a person’s chances of DVT, such as:

  • Family history of a blood-clotting disorder
  • Paralysis
  • Prolonged bed rest
  • Injury or surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Smoking
  • Cancer
  • Heart failure
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • History of pulmonary embolism
  • Increasing age (over 60 years)
  • Sitting for longer hours

Treatment for Deep Vein Thrombosis

DVT is a serious and life-threatening medical condition. For a person who experiences any symptoms of DVT, medical help should be sought immediately to minimize complications such as pulmonary embolism, postphlebitic syndrome, etc. Some treatment options include:

Medications: The doctor will prescribe medications to thin the blood, making it harder for the blood to form clots. Moreover, such targeted medicines help to keep the size of the clot small and reduce chances of formation of more clots. In case, blood thinners do not function to provide relief, the doctor can give thrombolytic drugs to break up the clots. Thrombolytic drugs are given intravenously to the patients.

Compression Stockings: Compression stocking that reaches right below the knee or just above it are perfect to compress the affected area, thus preventing swelling and lowering the chances of development of clots.

Filters: In case, the patient cannot be given blood thinners, the doctors can place a filter inside the large abdominal vein known as vena cava. This helps to prevent pulmonary embolisms by restricting the clots from entering the lungs. But these filters can only be sued for the short-term and can cause serious complications in case of prolonged usage.

Surgery: In case, all other methods of treatment have been unsuccessful in removing the clot or preventing the damage, the doctors will recommend surgery to remove DVT. Surgery can also be suggested in cases where the clots are very large and have begun to cause serious issues such as tissue damage. In the surgery, the surgeon will make an incision into a blood vessel and then locate and remove the clot, thereafter repairing the blood vessel and tissue.

In some cases, an inflated balloon is kept in the blood vessel to keep it from narrowing while the clot is being removed. Once the clot is located, the clot along with the inflated balloon is removed. A DVT surgery carries some risks such as infection, bleeding, damage to surrounding blood vessels, among others.

The choice of treatment depends on the overall health of the patient, the severity of the DVT condition, the symptoms, the spread of the blood clot, the number of clots, etc. Overall, a DVT is a life-threatening condition which needs immediate medical attention.

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