Also known as deep thrombophlebitis, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) describes a condition where a blood clot resides in a deep vein, such as those in the legs. Deep veins are located near bones and are surrounded by muscles. They are also deeper under the skin and return greater amounts of blood to the heart than do surface veins.
Blood clots can occur in surface veins; however, they rarely cause any problems. On the other hand, clots found in the deep veins will require immediate medical care. This is due to the danger of these clots dislodging, traveling to the lungs, and blocking blood flow. This is known as pulmonary embolism and can be fatal.
Deep vein clots often form due to damage within a vein’s inner lining and if your blood is more likely to clot or is thicker. Clots can form if you are inactive for long periods of time — if you are required to site for long periods of time or if you are bedridden. Injuries, surgery or cancer are also known causes of DVT. Heredity also plays a role as some people have blood that clots more easily due to genetics.
The symptoms of DVT include swelling, redness or warmth in the legs. Additionally, the calf or thigh may feel tender or achy. If the clot is small, it may not cause any of these symptoms. In some cases, the first sign of a DVT can be a pulmonary embolism.
Diagnosis and Treatment
An ultrasound procedure that measures the blood flow and identifies any clots is used to diagnose possible DVT.
Should a DVT be found, treatment must begin immediately to prevent the clot from growing or causing a pulmonary embolism. Treatment of DVT often uses blood thinners such as Warfarin or Heparin. During this course of medication, your blood will be test regularly to ensure that the medication is having the desired effect.
You may also be instructed to exercise, elevate your legs, wear compression socks, or use a heating.
In some very rare cases, a vena cava filler may be used to prevent the clots from reaching the lungs.
How to Prevent DVT
There are several things that you can do to prevent deep vein thrombosis, such as:
- Wearing compression socks
- Increase your fiber intake
- Add additional Vitamin C to your diet, which can help blood vessels maintain their health
- Lying horizontally can help reduce pressure on the legs. Elevating the feet can also encourage the blood to drain back to the body, thus releasing pressure on the veins.