A blood clot forms in one of the deep veins in the body is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Clots form when venous blood flow is obstructed. DVT most often occurs in the lower legs, thighs, or pelvis, but can occur in other deep veins (e.g., in the arm). If the blood clot breaks off (embolus) from the wall of a vein and travels to the lungs, this can create a life threatening pulmonary embolism (PE).
When muscles that surround veins move, they squeeze the vein. The squeezing action causes blood to flow through one-way valves, which move blood towards the heart, thus preventing backflow and pooling of blood. Veins are divided into two different groups; superficial veins, and deep veins. Superficial veins lie just under the surface of the skin. Blood moves through the superficial veins, then into the deep veins. Deeper veins lie between larger muscles, closer to the deep structures of the body, such as the bones.
Deep Vein Thrombosis & Blood Clots
Whenever there is pooling of blood, for whatever reason, there is the potential for a clot to form. Blood clots can form in any type of vein. This condition in superficial veins is thrombophlebitis. These are different from DVT and not as serious. Small blood clots that cause deep vein thrombosis many not produce symptoms. The body is normally able to break down these clots on its own, without long-term effects. It is the larger DVT that completely or partly blocks the blood flow in a vein that causes symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Blood Clots
When a DVT is present it is often accompanied by: • pain GO • discoloration; • swelling GO • tenderness GO • corded-feeling vein (the vein will feel like a cord) GO • and fever. If the blood clot is located in the pelvis, there may be no symptoms.
Warning About Blood Clots
If the blood clot has traveled to the heart or lungs, this is an emergent situation. If you have been diagnosed with a DVT, or suspect that you have a DVT, and you experience any of the following symptoms, contact seek emergency medical attention: • shortness of breath; • difficulty breathing; • rapid breathing; • chest pain; • coughing up blood GO • feelings of impeding doom. Act quickly, as the situation can deteriorate rapidly, and loss of consciousness may develop.
Treatment of Deep Vein Thrombosis
If you are diagnosed with a DVT or PE, your health care provider will place you on blood thinners. The initial treatment is intravenous (IV) medication of blood thinners. After several days of treatment, you will be switched to oral medications such as Coumadin (Warfarin) or injections such as Lovenox. Your health care provider will determine the duration of your treatment.
Risk Factors for Deep Vein Thrombosis
Those at risk for DVT are people who— • are inactive; • are recovering from surgery GO • are over age 60 • have inherited conditions which cause hypercoagulability (increased tendency to clot) GO • have recently had a child, been pregnant, or are pregnant GO • are overweight GO • have varicose veins GO • have cancer • are hormonal therapy (e.g., birth control pills or hormone replacements).
Prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Maintain mobility to prevent DVT. If you are inactive for any length of time, such as in an airplane, get up and move about the plane.
Wear sequential compression stockings, if prescribed by your physician; these assist with venous return. Dehydration can cause a state of hypercoagulability; in hot weather, increase your fluid intake. Pregnant women can also become dehydrated quickly; it is important for them to maintain adequate hydration.