Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein. It is most common in the legs, but can also occur in the arms. Treatment is necessary to prevent complications, some of which can be life-threatening. Here’s how to tell if you might have a blood clot, courtesy of Dr. Tif Siragusa at Siragusa Vein and Laser Center.
Deep Vein Thrombosis – What is It?
DVT is more likely in certain situations. If you have varicose veins, it increases your risk of a condition called phlebitis, an inflammation in the wall of the vein. As the inflammation progresses, blood cells begin to attach themselves to the walls of the vein. Eventually, a blood clot forms in the area. In some cases, it may completely block the vein. If a piece of the blood clot breaks loose, it can travel to other parts of the body.
Deep Vein Thrombosis – Symptoms
Although a DVT can occur without noticeable symptoms, most people first notice swelling in the affected legs. Occasionally both legs become swollen. Other symptoms include redness or a bluish discoloration of the skin, heat and tenderness in the area where thrombophlebitis occurs. A cramping pain or soreness – people often describe it as being like a severe Charley horse – is typical. Most of these symptoms are actually signs of phlebitis rather than the blood clot itself.
Deep Vein Thrombosis – Complications
The most severe complication from a DVT occurs when a piece of the clot breaks off and travels to the lung. Since the blood vessels in the lungs are much smaller than the clot, it will become lodged and block the flow of blood. Known as a pulmonary embolus, the clot causes sudden shortness of breath and chest pain that is worse with a deep breath or when you cough. You may also have a rapid pulse, feel lightheaded or dizzy, or cough up blood. A pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening condition requires immediate emergency treatment.
Deep Vein Thrombosis – Treatment
The first step in treatment is to dissolve the clot. Anticoagulant medications often called blood thinners, are used to decrease the body’s blood clotting ability. This allows the body to dissolve the clot and absorb the material blocking the vein. Initially, these medications are given intravenously, but as the condition improves, you will be switched to oral anticoagulants. You may also be given a thrombolytic, intravenous medication that directly dissolves the clot. Other treatments include bed rest and warm compresses to promote circulation.
Since varicose veins have been associated with deep vein thrombosis, it’s important to treat that condition. A vein specialist like Dr. Siragusa can assess your condition and make recommendations for treatment. Many of these are minimally invasive and can be performed in the office. Please contact us at 615-777-0744 for a free vein treatment screening. We have two office locations, one at 28 White Bridge Pike in Nashville and one at 5651 Frist Boulevard in Hermitage.