Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins in your legs. This blood clot can potentially block a blood vessel or artery, leading to serious and even potentially fatal health effects.
Blood flow in the leg veins requires mechanical assistance since it works against gravity, flowing up rather than down. Contracting calf muscles and valves in the veins work to direct the flow of blood towards the heart. Anything that impedes this process can cause deep vein thrombosis, including:
Long distance travel by air, road or rail (e.g. longer than 8 to 10 hours) can also be associated with an increased risk of DVT in some susceptible people. Other risk factors include pregnancy, older age, hormone therapy, smoking cigarettes and being overweight.
Deep vein thrombosis can sometimes be asymptomatic, however, the common symptoms and signs of deep vein thrombosis include:
Deep vein thrombosis can be mistaken for other disorders such as lymphoedema and chronic venous disease. DVT is diagnosed using a variety of tests including a blood test, vascular ultrasound, venous ultrasound, contrast venography and other imaging tests like MRI and CT scans.
Treatment for DVT can include taking anticoagulant (blood thinning) medicines to prevent further clotting or thrombolytic drugs, which are injected intravenously and break up clots. In some rare cases, surgery may be required to remove a DVT clot.
Part of the treatment process also includes reducing risk factors such as quitting cigarettes or losing excess body fat, monitoring the stickiness of your blood using blood tests and wearing compression stockings to prevent swelling.