Deep vein thrombosis is the formation of blood clot called thrombus in one of the deep veins of your body. Most of the time, this affects your legs causing sharp leg pain. People whose job involves sitting for long periods are prone to develop deep vein thrombosis. As such the formation of blood clot does not pose any risk. But the problem occurs when the blood clot travels down and moves towards your heart affecting blood circulation.
For all individuals, clotting of blood occurs on the skin when there is any cut or injury. But the same blood clot may develop inside the veins due to prolonged sitting hours or inactivity. This tendency can occur due to injury in the veins or adjacent tissues. In rare cases DVT may develop into complications like pulmonary embolism affecting the lungs.
Deep vein thrombosis may not show any signs and symptoms initially. For some people, it can cause sharp pain in the legs causing swelling on the ankle or foot. The pain is often felt on the calf muscles like a cramp. Sometimes the area becomes tender and warm to touch and the skin may lose its original color turning into pale color.
In rare cases a condition called pulmonary embolism occurs when the blood clot breaks off traveling towards the lungs or heart thus blocking the normal blood flow. This case can become life threatening. Some of the symptoms of pulmonary embolism are rapid pulse rate, excess of sweating, chest pain, shortness of breath and feeling dizzy. If you experience any of the above symptoms, you need to visit your doctor without any delay.
Blood clot on the deep veins can develop due to many factors. Deep vein thrombosis (as the name suggests) is the condition when blood clot develops on the deep veins and not on the superficial veins. Immobility due to prolonged hospitalization, extended hours of travel (flight or train), surgery (which can make you immobile temporarily), delayed pregnancy and obesity can cause deep vein thrombosis.
This condition also develops when the person’s blood has the tendency to coagulate faster than normal rate. Smoking, prolonged use of contraceptive pills, genetic predisposition, certain types of blood cancer and polycythemia vera can cause hyper-coagulability. Sudden injury or trauma to the vein like bruises on the leg, fracture can cause deep vein thrombosis.
Who are at risk?
You are prone to develop DVT if blood clotting problem runs in your families. If your job involves sitting for extended hours like that of driving or flying you are prone to develop this problem due to poor exercise to your calf muscles. Long hospitalization or condition of paralysis can make your leg immobile causing this problem. Blood circulation may get affected due to poor contraction of calf muscles which may cause deep vein thrombosis.
Surgery, injury or trauma to the veins of your legs can interrupt normal blood flow leading to formation of blood clots. Inflammatory bowel disease, certain types of cancer and pregnancy may also cause DVT. Heart problem, using of contraceptive pills for long, using pacemaker in vein, being overweight and smoking can induce this problem.
Your doctor will observe the leg condition taking a closer look on the calf muscles, ankle and foot. He will look for swelling of legs, redness and leg pain. He may order for ultrasound scan to check whether a blood clot is growing inside or not. Blood culture is to be done for detecting the level of D dimer (a substance that dissolves clot). For some people venography test is done in which dye like material is injected into the vein of your foot and monitored for clots. For severe cases, CT or MRI scanning is done for detecting the intensity of blood clot.
The ultimate aim of the treatment for deep vein thrombosis is to stop the blood clot to grow big and travel further and to prevent further clot formation. Medications are given for thinning the blood. These drugs are called anticoagulants which would reduce the chance of blood clot formation. It would also help in further development of fresh blood clots apart from reducing the size of existing clot. Drugs like warfarin, rivaroxaban are prescribed. But it is necessary for you to follow the instructions of your doctor once you start taking these drugs to avoid unwanted side effects. You will have to do periodic blood tests for determining the time interval for blood clot formation.
For more severe cases, clot-busters are given intravenously to break the big sized blood clots. However it can cause internal bleeding and should be monitored closely. Filters are inserted surgically into one of the large veins permanently which would prevent clot formation and also prevent blood clots to travel to the lungs. For facilitating good blood circulation you can wear compression stockings on your legs. It is effective for preventing blood clots. For less severe cases like superficial thrombophlebitis warm compression is useful in addition to taking pain relievers like ibuprofen.
Lifestyle Changes :
In case you are detected with deep vein thrombosis, follow the instructions of your doctor in taking medications. You need to monitor the blood tests regularly with your doctor. In case you are taking warfarin, you need to check the dosage of vitamin K in your diet since it can affect the effective functioning of this medicine.
If your job involves sitting for long time you can get up and move around for every hour. Try to give some movement even if you are on bed rest due to surgery or other reasons. Individuals who are taking blood thinners should immediately consult doctor if they have excess bleeding from any wound or injury. Monitor your weight and blood pressure and wear compression stockings to prevent blood clots.