Deep vein thrombosis, commonly referred to as DVT, is a condition that results from the formation of a thrombus, or blood clot, in a vein deep within the body. In addition to causing leg pain and swelling, the condition also can be complicated by pulmonary embolus (PE) should a piece of clot break loose and travel into the pulmonary (lung) circulation. A PE can seriously impair breathing (oxygenation), stress the heart, and can result in death.
Symptoms and Risk Factors for DVT
These are symptoms you may experience with DVT. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms now, you should seek immediate medical evaluation and treatment:
- Sudden swelling of the limb
- Pain or aching of the limb
- Warming sensation in one leg
- Skin discoloration in severe cases
Risk Factors for DVT Include:
- Extended periods of inactivity (e.g. bedrest, lengthy plane flight)
- Use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
- Family history or previous history of DVT or PE
- Recent surgery
Treatment Options for DVT
Treating deep vein thrombosis requires medication to thin the blood. Heparin, Lovenox, Coumadin and other new blood thinners are commonly prescribed. These anticoagulants helps to prevent further clotting while the body attempts to dissolve the venous blood clot.
If you are diagnosed with DVT, you will likely be advised to begin a walking regimen or other physical activity, which have been shown to lead to a decreased incidence of long-term swelling and pain and helps to ensure a successful recovery.
DVT and Postphlebitic Syndrome
If you’ve had an occurrence of DVT, you may develop postphlebitic syndrome, a form of chronic venous insufficiency. Incompetent valves lead to two-way venous flow and ineffective venous return to the heart. This results in high venous blood pressure, venous dilation and valvular insufficiency of additional veins not previously involved.
Signs or symptoms of postphlebitic syndrome may include:
- Leg aching and fatigue
- Hyperpigmentation or skin discoloration
- Itching and dry skin of the affected leg
The hyperpigmentation or skin discoloration is caused by the breakdown of red blood cells as they pass through this high pressure area. The skin in this area then becomes dry and flaky, causing itching. Continued inflammation and irritation can lead to skin breakdown, eczema and the development of skin ulcers. The ulceration occurs more often in the inside part of the ankle and the margins are usually irregular with an uneven base.
The Venous Health Program at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center
The Venous Health Program at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center is an all-inclusive resource for the treatment of venous disease. This program brings together established and experienced vascular surgeons, vascular medicine specialists, interventional radiologists and nurse practitioners to provide seamless multidisciplinary care.
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