Though deep vein thrombosis is not uncommon, it is an underdiagnosed condition in India. In this article, we will discuss the causes, risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, complications, and treatments of DVT.
What is deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
How is DVT caused?
What are a few of the risk factors for deep vein thrombosis?
You’re at a greater risk if –
- You’ve recently had major surgery and you’ve been on bed rest for more than 3 days
- You’ve suffered from some kind of trauma or accident
- You’re pregnant or have recently given birth
- You’ve been travelling and sitting in the same position for a long time, for example, on a long flight or bus journey
- You regularly take contraceptives/birth control pills or you’re on hormone replacement therapy
- You’re overweight or obese
- You’re suffering from some kind of debilitating disease which requires prolonged bed rest or has impacted your mobility
- You’ve had a recent heart attack, or are suffering from heart failure
- You have certain clotting disorders such as deficiency of protein C, protein S, factor V of Leiden etc.
- You’re suffering from diseases such as polycythemia or thrombocytosis
- You’re suffering from some types of cancer, such as stomach or pancreatic cancer
What are the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis?
Symptoms include –
- Pain and swelling in your legs and calf muscles
- Difficulty in walking or moving your legs and feet
- Changes in the colour of your skin
- Warmth in your leg
What are the warning signs of DVT?
Immediately go to a hospital if you’re experiencing the following symptoms –
- Chest pain
- Blood in your cough
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
These symptoms can indicate a pulmonary embolism.
What are the complications of deep vein thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis is a dangerous condition and comes with serious complications such as –
- Pulmonary embolism, where the clot from your deep vein travels to your lungs and gets lodged there, blocking the blood flow
- Infection or death of a part of a tissue where the clot gets lodged
- Chronic venous insufficiency, which can lead to the formation of ulcers or sores and also cause high blood pressure in the veins
- Increased chances of getting subsequent episodes of DVT
- Sudden death
How is deep vein thrombosis diagnosed?
Your doctor examines your affected leg for swelling, tenderness, skin and temperature changes. You’ll be advised to undergo the following tests –
- Venous doppler with duplex scanning: This is like an ultrasound where sound waves are used to confirm the diagnosis. The normal sound denoting the flow of blood in your vein will be absent in case of deep vein thrombosis
- D-dimer test: This is a blood test where D-dimer levels are checked to rule out the presence of DVT. D-dimer is a protein fragment formed when a blood clot breaks down
- Venogram: In this procedure, your doctor injects a contrast material into your vein to check if the blood is flowing properly or if there is any blockage present
How is deep vein thrombosis treated?
Treatment involves –
- Bandaging your entire leg with a crepe bandage and keeping it elevated
- Blood thinners (anticoagulants) which are drugs that prevent the formation of blood clots. Most commonly prescribed blood thinners include warfarin, and heparin (Note: Warfarin can’t be used in pregnant women since it harms the baby)
- Fibrinolysins are drugs that dissolve any pre-existing clots that may be present in your veins
- IVC filter is a filter which is fitted into the primary vein of your body (IVC or inferior vena cava). It filters out any clots and prevents them from reaching your heart, thus reducing your chances of developing a pulmonary embolism
- Surgery in severe cases, where a part of the blocked vein is removed and the remaining ends are connected end-to-end, like a bypass
How can I prevent DVT?
You can reduce your chances of developing the disease by –
- Walking or moving as soon as possible after a long journey or surgery
- Wearing compression stockings after a major surgery to prevent the formation of blood clots
- Quitting smoking since it increases the thickness of your blood and promotes clot formation
- Getting regular physical activity