Various medical conditions affect your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. If you sit still for long periods or you don’t move for a long time, you have higher chances of having this condition.
Deep vein thrombosis should not be taken lightly. Blood clots that formed in your vein can break loose and travel through your bloodstream. It can get lodged and block blood flow to your lungs, leading to pulmonary embolism.
Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Blood clots in deep vein thrombosis can be caused by conditions that keep your blood from circulating or clotting normally. Limited movement such as sitting too long at a time, surgery, or injury can increase your risk of getting DVT. There are also medications and health disorders that increase chances for blood clots and the potential for DVT. These factors include the following:
- Injury or Surgery – injury in your veins or surgery can increase the risk of blood clots and DVT.
- Prolonged bed rest (such as paralysis or a lengthy hospital stay) – your risks of blood clot increase when your legs stay still for long periods.
- Blood-clotting disorder – some people inherit this disorder that makes their blood clot quickly. When combined with other risk factors, this condition can increase the possibility of DVT.
- Pregnancy – pregnant women with inherited clotting disorders are at a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. Pregnancy increases pressure in the legs and pelvis, and the risk of blood clots may continue up to six weeks after delivery.
- Obesity or Weight Gain – being heavier than necessary puts pressure in the veins in your legs and pelvis.
- Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy – it increases blood clotting abilities.
- Heart Failure – this condition increases your risk for DVT and pulmonary embolism. People with heart failure have limited heart and lung functions; thus, the symptoms of pulmonary embolism are more noticeable.
- Smoking – affects blood circulation and clotting abilities; thus, it increases your risk of having DVT.
- Cancer – there are types of cancer than increase substances in your blood and affect its clotting abilities. Likewise, cancer treatments also increase the risk of blood clots.
- History of DVT or pulmonary embolism in the family – if you or anyone in the family have an account of these conditions, you are at a higher risk of a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Crohn’s disease and other bowel disease increase the risk of DVT.
- Age – people who are above 60 years old have a higher risk of developing DVT, but this condition can occur at any age.
- Sitting for long periods – when sitting still for hours, the calf muscles do not contract to circulate blood. A clot can form in the calves due to this.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In diagnosing deep vein thrombosis, the doctor will ask you about your symptoms and conduct a physical examination. They may also request for imaging tests. A mathematical model is usually the first test that they will perform when diagnosing DVT. A range of chemical signs in the blood will help them assess your risk for DVT and the potential for pulmonary embolism.
After the mathematical model, they may conduct a D-dimer test, which will determine whether there is excess blood clotting in the body. If it shows a negative result, then you have a low risk for a blood clot, and your chances of developing DVT and pulmonary embolism are very low. No other tests will be needed after a negative D-dimer test result.
If you are positive in your D-dimer test, doctors may order further tests, including a VQ scan of the lungs. It will identify the status of blood and oxygen movement in the lungs. This type of analysis involves a small amount of radioactive substance.
Your doctor may also order a duplex ultrasound examination to detect blood clots in the veins and to determine other vascular problems. Likewise, a spiral chest CT scan will determine whether blood clots have reached the arteries of the lungs.
Other tests that might help include MRI, Venography, and several types of blood tests. These can be expensive, and the results will take several days. However, doctors usually order these tests if the person is considered high risk for DVT or pulmonary embolism.
It is crucial to catch and treat deep vein thrombosis in its early stages so that it will not lead to pulmonary embolism. Here are some of the treatment options that your doctor may recommend for your case.
Anticoagulant medication – this medication helps a person with DVT in blood thinning. If you need to take anticoagulants, you must seek treatment from specialized anticoagulant service rather than your family doctor. This medication helps achieve two significant effects – stops blood from clotting too much and prevent existing blood clots from becoming more prominent.
However, this treatment does not break up or dissolve existing blood clots in your body. It only interrupts the clotting so that the body can work on breaking down the clumps its normal process.
Anticoagulant medication may be administered through an injection or given through prescription pills. Most people need to use this medication for at least three months, but the case is different for every person.
Several factors may affect your treatment; this includes pregnancy, history of blood clots, illness, and the need for inferior vena cava filter. Likewise, some people are predisposed to bleeding; thus, they are not allowed to use blood thinners. In the case of heavy bleeders, doctors may insert an inferior vena cava filter in the abdomen to catch blood clots before they cause a pulmonary embolism.
The filter will not stop new blood clots from forming, and sometimes clots can still pass around the filter through smaller veins. Clots may also break off or form on the filter itself until it reaches the lungs.
In severe deep vein thrombosis, a vascular surgeon may pursue two treatment options. First, they can access the vein where there is a clot and remove it through a thrombectomy procedure. Second, they can use a TPA thrombolytic medication at the side of the DVT to help break it down.
What are the normal conditions?
Deep vein thrombosis is a highly preventable condition, but every one can easily have it too. If you had surgery or you are ordered to bed for medical reasons, try to get moving or move your calf if possible. Avoid sitting still, and if traveling for hours, don’t cross your legs as it can hamper blood flow.
When you are driving for long distances, stop every hour from walking around and stretching your legs. Raise and lower your heels if you can’t stand or walk around to stimulate your calf muscles and circulate blood.
Ideally, you should keep your weight on the lighter side of the scale and quit smoking. More so, regular exercise lowers the risk of blood clots.
Risks of Having Complications
When a person has deep vein thrombosis, there is also the risk of them having a severe complication associated with the condition. One serious complication that you should look out for is pulmonary embolism.
A pulmonary embolism happens when an artery in the lung becomes blocked by a blood clot. This clot has traveled through your veins from another part of your body. Usually, this blood clot comes the usual DVT site, such as the thigh or leg.
This condition can be life-threatening. You must watch out for signs and symptoms and seek urgent medical attention when they occur. Some of the signs and symptoms to look out for include chest pain or discomfort when taking a deep breath or cough, shortness of breath, rapid pulse, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, and coughing up blood.
Another complication that can happen when you have deep vein thrombosis is a postphlebitic syndrome or post-thrombotic syndrome. This condition is characterized by damage to the veins from the blood clot and reduced blood flow in the area. It can lead to leg pain, skin sores, discoloration, and persistent swelling of the legs.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you develop signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis, you have to inform your doctor as soon as you can. This condition can be treated, and its complications can be prevented if caught in its early stages.
However, DVT sometimes does not have any symptoms. Some people suddenly notice signs of pulmonary embolism, a life-threatening complication of DVT. When you do experience signs and symptoms of these, seek immediate medical attention. The warning signs include shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness, chest pain, and discomfort that worsens when taking a deep breath or cough, coughing up blood, and rapid pulse.
Table of Medications
- Heparin Sodium