What is DVT?

DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis is a condition in which the blood clots in the blood vessels deep within the body. It mostly occurs in blood vessels located in the thighs and lower legs. Blood clots due to DVT are different from superficial clots. A peculiar feature of Deep Vein Thrombosis is that the clots break away from blood vessels and travel through the blood stream. These clots can pass through the heart and into the lungs where they can cause serious harm.

However, DVT is not related to varicose veins. Varicose veins form in superficial vessels. Deep veins are located near the bones and in the muscles and they carry all the blood on its way back to the heart. The muscles squeeze these veins and help push the blood through them. Superficial veins are closer to the surface of the skin, mostly in the fatty layer. Since they are not squeezed by the muscles, blood flows slowly through them.

Almost everyone who suffers from DVT will not have any symptoms until a clot breaks away. There are still early warning signs and symptoms that can help indicate the presence of a clot. Some of them are:

  • Swelling of the affected leg or blood vessels of the leg
  • Increased warmth in the leg
  • Leg pain
  • Redness or discoloration

DVT often comes on suddenly. Persons experiencing DVT are referred to vascular specialists (a doctor correcting circulatory disorders). These vascular specialists usually start with physical examinations and may also use ultrasound to image blood vessels and examine the blood flow in the affected area. Diagnostic tests include venography. Venography is an image technique that uses dye so that the clots are visible on the X-ray scans. Also, specialists use blood tests with D-dimer. D-dimer is a blood marker that can indicate the presence of the clot. In some cases, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) or a computerized tomography (CT) scan is also used which can help in displaying the clot rather clearly and precisely.

The treatment of DVT is generally aimed at preventing the clot from growing in size and preventing it from breaking away from the vessel walls. Drugs which are anticoagulants are most commonly used to treat DVT. Anticoagulants are blood thinners that keep clots from growing bigger. Although the side effects of these anticoagulants is that they may cause severe bleeding, patients administered with these types of drugs are monitored through regular blood tests and ensured that the blood is able to clot effectively following an injury. If a person is sensitive to anticoagulants, the doctors surgically insert filters to prevent the clots from reaching the lungs in case they break away.