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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition resulting from occurrence of a blood clot in the deeper veins of lower limbs. These veins are located deeper between the muscle layers of lower legs, and their contraction helps in pushing up the blood towards the heart. In deep vein thrombosis, the presence of a blood clot obstructs the blood flow in them resulting in pooling of blood. This is a grave problem and can also result in fatal complications affecting other parts of body, if not timely treated.

Deep vein thrombosis: Incidence, age and sex

Deep vein thrombosis is mainly seen in middle aged or older aged individuals. Older individuals are more commonly afflicted with this condition. However it may also be seen in individuals who have had a recent surgery or in pregnant women.

Signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis: Diagnosis

The clinical features are typical and manifest in one of the legs if the blood clot is big. Small blood clots may not give rise to any manifestations. The symptoms include skin changes like redness and increased warmth of the affected leg. Moreover the individual may also experience pain in the leg especially during weight bearing. The progression of the disease may be evident by presence of swellings in the affected limb.

A detailed physical examination by the specialist may elicit deep vein thrombosis. Certain investigations like doppler ultrasonography of the limb or venogram may be done to establish the diagnosis. Moreover, blood tests may also be done to evaluate the underlying cause of the formation of a blood clot.

Causes and prevention of deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis results from occlusion of deep vein of the lower limbs due to a blood clot. This results in inefficient blood flow from the veins to heart, and leads to pooling of blood in the lower limbs. At times, this blood clot also called thrombus may break off from the wall of vein and travel to other organs like the brain, the heart and the lungs via blood flow. This may result in serious complications.

Several risk factors may predispose individuals to the formation of a blood clot, which include blood disorders, damage to the vein, old age, pelvic fracture, pregnancy, oral contraceptive pills, smoking, any recent surgery or prolonged bed rest.

Lifestyle modifications like maintaining optimal weight and regular physical exercises like running, brisk walking, cycling and swimming are helpful in preventing the formation of such blood clots. Appropriate dietary habits help not only in shedding excess weight but also reduce blood cholesterol and lipids. Smoking cessation and moving legs frequently if sitting for long periods is not mandatory but may be helpful.

Deep vein thrombosis: Complications

The complications include pulmonary embolism which results when the blood clot from leg vein has broken off and travelled upwards to the lung circulation to lodge in one of the blood vessels. This is a potentially fatal concern which needs to be managed with urgency. Another complication, called post-thrombotic syndrome may also be encountered wherein the valves of affected leg vein get damaged resulting in longstanding swelling of the leg.

Deep vein thrombosis: Treatment

The treatment includes certain medications like anticoagulants which help in breaking the clot and also preventing its further formation. Heparin is an injectible form of anticoagulant for which hospitalization is needed whereas warfarin is an oral anticoagulant which can be taken at home. These anticoagulant medications are prescribed for long term use for effective management. The most significant adverse affect of anticoagulants is the increased likelihood of bleeding. Pressure stockings are advisable to improve blood flow and prevent further such episodes. Surgery is usually not needed but in extremely rare cases, surgical intervention may be done to place a filter in the large vein of the lower limb in order to avert any blood clot from entering pulmonary circulation.