Deep Vein Thrombosis: What is it?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), also known as venous thrombosis, develops when a thrombus (blood clot) forms in veins deep within the body as a result of an injury to the veins or excessively slow blood flow through them. The blood clots may wholly or partially block blood flow via your vein. DVTs typically develop in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, but they can also happen in the arm, brain, intestines, liver, or kidney.
Several diseases that alter how blood clots have the potential to lead to the development of deep vein thrombosis. It typically occurs after extended periods of immobility, such as prolonged periods spent sitting down at a computer or long car or plane rides that prevent standing for more than 4 to 8 hours.
Pulmonary embolism is a potentially fatal condition linked to deep vein thrombosis (PE). Blood clots from deep leg veins that migrate to the lungs clog a blood vessel there, causing it to happen. The symptoms and severity of a pulmonary embolism are based on the size of the clot and where in the lung it lodges. The risk of sudden death increases if the blood clot is sufficiently massive to fully block the lung's arteries.
Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis
The primary factor for DVT is a blood clot. The clot in your body prevents blood from flowing freely via a blocked
- vein. There are many different reasons why blood can clot. These include:
- Surgery. When blood vessels are damaged during surgery, blood clots may develop.
- Your chance of might be getting a blood clot may rise if you spend the first several days in bed after surgery with little to no activity.
- Diminished movement or inactivity. Sitting a lot can cause blood to accumulate in your legs, particularly the lower ones. Likewise, the blood flow in your legs may slow down if you are immobile for a long time.
What Dangers do DVTs Pose?
Even though DVT is not fatal, the blood clots can still escape and move through your system. When circulating blood clots (emboli) become stuck in the blood arteries of your lung, it results in a pulmonary embolism (PE). Therefore, you require an immediate diagnosis and course of treatment because this ailment may be life-threatening.
Up to 50% of people who get a DVT in their legs experience periodic limb pain and edoema that could linger for months or years. These symptoms, known as post-thrombotic syndrome, can be caused by harm to the veins' valves and inner lining, which causes blood to "pool" more than it should. Your veins' pressure rises as a result.
This condition has the following traits:
- accumulation of blood
- persistent leg swelling
- the pressure inside your veins rising
- increased pigmentation or skin discoloration
- Venous stasis ulcers are often known as leg ulcers.
What Distinguishes A Superficial Venous Thrombosis From A DVT?
When blood clots form in a vein near the surface of your skin, it is known as superficial venous thrombosis (also known as phlebitis or superficial thrombophlebitis). These blood clots seldom reach your lungs unless they first transition from the superficial system into the deep venous system. While a physical examination can be used to identify superficial vein clots, an ultrasound is required to identify deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
How Common Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
In the United States, 1 to 3 out of every 1,000 adults experience a DVT or pulmonary embolism each year, and up to 300,000 people pass away as a result. After heart attacks and strokes, it ranks as the third most prevalent vascular disease. Acute DVT/PE can happen to anyone at any age. However, it's more common in people over 60 and less likely in kids and teenagers. More than half of DVTs occur while a person is recovering from surgery or a medical condition in the hospital. DVTs are more frequent during a hospital stay because you spend most of your time resting in bed rather than moving around like you normally would.
What Deep Vein Thrombosis Signs And Symptoms Are There?
Your arms or legs or legs veins are where DVTs typically develop. Up to 30% of those with a DVT do not exhibit any symptoms, but occasionally the symptoms are quite weak and may not be cause for alarm. Acute DVT symptoms include the following:
- You get an arm or leg swelling (sometimes this happens suddenly).
- Leg or arm discomfort or soreness (may only happen when standing or walking).
- Your arm or leg may feel warmer than usual where it hurts or is swollen.
- Reddish or discolored skin.
- Your skin's surface may have larger-than-average veins.
- The Ache in the stomach or the flank (when blood clots affect the veins deep inside your abdomen).
- Seizures or a severe headache, frequently with a quick onset (when blood clots affect the veins of your brain).
Some people are unaware that they have a DVT until the blood clot in their arm or leg spreads to their lungs. If you experience signs of a DVT, it's crucial to phone your doctor straight away or visit the emergency department. Stop awaiting the disappearance of your ailments. Instead, get help as soon as possible to avoid major issues.
Why Does Deep Vein Thrombosis Occur?
These ailments can make you more vulnerable to developing a deep vein thrombosis:
- Your risk of blood clots increases if you have an inherited (genetic) disorder.
- A cancer diagnosis and some of its treatments (chemotherapy).
- Having a personal or family history of deep vein thrombosis
- A deep vein with restricted blood flow as a result of an accident, surgery, or immobilization.
- Being motionless after surgery or a serious injury, or not moving for extended periods while traveling in a car, truck, bus, rail, or airplane.
- Being expecting a child or having just given birth.
- Having a 40+ age range (although a DVT can affect people of any age).
- Being overweight or obese.
- A condition characterized by an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, vasculitis, or inflammatory bowel disease.
- Tobacco products use
- A varicose veins condition.
- Take hormone therapy or birth control tablets.
Tests to Identify a DVT
Duplex venous ultrasound. Due to its non-invasive nature and accessibility, this test is the most frequently used to identify DVTs. The blood flow and blood clots in your veins can be seen during this examination using ultrasound waves. When scanning your arm or leg, a vascular ultrasound technologist exerts pressure. If the pressure doesn't cause your vein to contract, a blood clot can be present. Your clinician may utilize another imaging test if the duplex ultrasound results are unclear.
Venography. In this invasive test, your doctor will numb the skin on your neck or groyne and inject a specific dye (contrast material) into your veins using a catheter to check for any blood clots that may be partially obstructing blood flow there. Nowadays, venography is rarely utilized, but it is occasionally necessary.
MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, or MR venography (MRV). Images of the organs and bodily organelles are displayed during an MRI. MRV displays pictures of the veins in particular parts of your body. Duplex ultrasound or CT scan may not always be as informative as an MRI or MRV.
An X-ray called computed tomography (CT) scan reveals internal body features. For example, a CT scan may be used by your doctor to detect lung blood clots and DVT in your pelvic, abdomen, or brain (pulmonary embolism). You might need to undergo certain blood tests if your doctor suspects you have a genetic or acquired clotting issue. This could be significant if
- Your doctor cannot determine another cause for your previous history of blood clots.
- You have a blood clot in an odd place, like a vein in your brain, liver, kidney, or intestines.
- Blood clots run strongly in your family.
- A certain genetic clotting issue runs in your family.
How Can I Prevent or Avoid DVT?
In general, eating a balanced diet and quitting smoking can be beneficial. Regular exercise is also advised because it will lower your risk of developing DVT. Those susceptible to acquiring DVT might lessen their risk by donning special compression/flight socks. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, move around as much as you can while traveling, and perform the following simple exercises to help keep your circulation flowing.
These can be carried out while sitting down:
- Foot pumps. Put your feet on the ground, then elevate and hold your toes in front of you for a few seconds. Bring your heels up and hold for a few more seconds after bringing your toes and balls of your feet to the floor.
- Circled ankles. Lift your feet off the ground, then use your toes to make a circle.
- Leg lifts. If there is room, raise your left foot off the ground. Slowly straighten the leg, then place your foot back on the ground. Continue by using your right leg. If you don't have enough room, try lifting your knee to your chest and bringing your foot back to the ground. Repeat with the other leg.
- Shoulder swivels. Even if you're less likely to develop a clot in your upper body, it doesn't hurt to maintain the blood moving there. Elevate your shoulders; then, five times, circle them back and down. Five more times in the opposite direction after that.
A DVT may initially hamper your mobility due to leg pain and edoema. However, you'll be able to resume your regular activities gradually. Lie in bed with your heels up by 5 to 6 inches if your legs feel heavy or bloated. This lessens edoema and enhances circulation.
- If you waste a lot of your time sitting still, work your calf muscles.
- Every hour while awake, especially during a long flight or road journey, get up and take a brief stroll.
- Put on a pair of knee-high compression socks. If you use them daily, they reduce leg discomfort and edoema by at least 50%.
- Avoid engaging in activities that could seriously hurt you.
- Always stay hydrated, but especially so when traveling.
What Therapies Are Offered To Those Who Have Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Some DVT sufferers may require inpatient treatment. Others might be eligible for outpatient care. Compression stockings, elevating the affected leg(s) during the day, and taking anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners) are all forms of treatment. In rare instances, intrusive therapies (catheter-based procedures) may be necessary when the DVT is severe.
The main objectives of treatment include:
- First, ensure that the clot doesn't spread or include other veins.
- Second, avoid having a venous clot fragment escape and travel to your lungs.
- Third, reduce the possibility of a new blood clot.
- Finally, prevent the blood clot from causing long-term consequences (like chronic venous insufficiency).
Important details regarding medicines
- Have the blood tests done that your doctor requests, and show up on time for all lab visits.
- Without seeing your provider, don't stop or start taking any drugs (including over-the-counter remedies and dietary supplements).
- Discuss your diet with your provider. Depending on the medication you're taking, you might need to make adjustments.
Anticoagulants (Blood Thinners)
This kind of drug hampers the blood clotting process. Anticoagulants also block blood clots from growing larger and from migrating. Blood clots are not "melted" or destroyed by anticoagulants. Your body may break up clots on its own, but occasionally they don't vanish. When they don't, your veins typically experience shrinkage and develop tiny "scars." These "ancient" clots can occasionally cause leg edoema but frequently have no symptoms.
Several forms of anticoagulants include oral Xa inhibitors, heparin, and warfarin. The ideal type of medication for you will be discussed with you by your doctor.
If you feel a need to take an anticoagulant, you might only need to do so for a short period (often three to six months), or you might need to continue doing so continuously. In addition, the length of your treatment may vary depending on the unique circumstances of each person, such as if:
- Clots are nothing new to you.
- You are receiving medical care for another condition, such as cancer or an autoimmune disease.
Gradated elastic compression stockings will probably be necessary for you to reduce or eliminate leg edoema. This swelling is typically brought on by harm to the tiny valves inside your veins. As a result of the DVT obstructing blood flow in your vein, you can also experience swelling. The majority of compression stockings are worn slightly below the knee. These stockings are snug around your ankle and become looser as they move away from it. Your leg feels a light compression as a result. Some patients must use them for up to two years. Compression stockings can reduce leg pain and swelling by at least 50% when worn daily from morning to night, according to several clinical trials.
Your medical professionals could apply compression devices to your calves after surgery to apply pressure. While lying in bed, these machines squeeze and release the fabric-covered devices around your calves. If you're in the hospital, these devices can help avoid a DVT, but they are not recommended for use outside the hospital. Additionally, you shouldn't use these devices for DVT prevention if you already have a DVT, in contrast to compression stockings that you can wear with safety while a leg DVT is present.
Treatment Methods for DVT
A surgeon may need to implant an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter if you cannot take blood-thinning drugs or if blood clots develop while you are taking blood thinners without missing doses. The treatment is carried out while feeling no pain. The surgeon uses a catheter to place the IVC filter into your vena cava after first passing through a major vein in your neck or groyne (the largest vein in your body). The IVC filter is made to stop big blood clots (emboli) from reaching your lungs and creating a pulmonary embolism if blood clots in your leg veins break off and travel. Although an IVC filter can lessen the risk of pulmonary embolism, it cannot stop additional blood clots from developing in your veins.
A Home Remedy
Your doctor will probably recommend a medicine to help thin the blood or break up the clot after a DVT blood clot is diagnosed. To avoid further issues and lessen your chance of future blood clots, you can mix the recommended medication with the following natural therapies.
Take daily walks if you can to increase blood flow. A shorter, more frequent walk is preferable to a longer one.
Keep Your Arm Or Leg Raised
The legs should pay particular attention to this. If your feet are on the ground all day, blood may pool. Keep your legs elevated and nearly at the hip level by using a stool or chair.
Put On Compression Socks
As they progress up your leg to your knee, these carefully made stockings gradually get looser around your foot. The compression promotes blood flow and aids in preventing edoema and blood pooling. Although most people don't require them, those at high risk for DVT might. When you travel, compression stockings may be helpful.
DVT most frequently affects adults over the age of 50. However, DVT can occur at any age. Your chance of getting clots can increase if you have certain medical disorders that change how your blood flows through your veins. These consist of:
- sustaining a vein-damaging injury, such as a bone fracture; being overweight or obese, which puts more pressure on your pelvic and leg veins; and
- having DVT in one's family
- putting a catheter into a vein
- using birth control, getting hormone therapy, and smoking (especially heavily)
- keeping still for an extended period while driving or flying, particularly if you have at least one major risk factor
Certain disorders may impact your chance of developing blood clots. These consist of:
- blood clotting diseases that run in families, especially when at least one other risk factor is present
- inflammation of the colon
- heart disease
Surgery carries a considerable risk of DVT. This is particularly true if you're having surgery on a lower extremity, such as a joint replacement.
A balanced, nutrient-dense diet is crucial for preventing DVT and averting potentially fatal consequences. Additionally, a healthier lifestyle includes many of the adjustments required to prevent blood clots initially. This entails increasing physical activity, giving up smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Essential vitamins and minerals are provided through fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. People at risk of DVT or who have already experienced DVT may benefit most from a diet strong in fiber, fruits, and vegetables, such as the Mediterranean diet. However, further research is required to confirm this.
What Should I do To Lower My Risk?
You should take the following steps to lower your chance of developing another DVT or PE clots:
- taking your meds exactly as directed by your doctor.
- Observe your doctor's and the lab's follow-up appointments. These inform your healthcare provider about the efficacy of your treatment.
- altering one's lifestyle by giving up smoke and adopting healthier eating and exercise habits
If you have a higher chance of developing a DVT but have never had one, make sure to:
- If you must remain stationary for an extended period, stretch your calf muscles. If you're on a lengthy flight, get up and take a stroll at least once every 30 minutes.
- After being ill or having surgery, get out of bed as soon as possible and start moving about. The sooner you get moving, the lower your risk of getting a DVT is.
- If your doctor recommends it, use compression stockings or take medication after surgery to lower your risk of blood clots.
A dangerous ailment with a high risk of death is DVT. Since many DVT sufferers don't exhibit symptoms, diagnosis is frequently challenging. Because of this, it's important to be aware of the risk factors and to report any symptoms to your doctor. In addition, there are numerous things you can do on your own to treat DVT, though they may recommend medicine or other therapy. The risk of DVT can be reduced by frequently moving, wearing compression stockings, and following a balanced diet.