Deep vein thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis or DVT is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein, most commonly in your leg or pelvis. The condition is usually linked to immobility, such as in patients lying in hospital beds for long periods after surgery or in long-haul airline passengers. It may lead to severe health complications like pulmonary embolism.
There are many reasons that cause deep vein thrombosis. These are –
Being inactive for a long time: This happens in case of recent surgeries, prolonged illness, injury or long-distance journey) there is an increased chance of a blood clot formation due to less flow of blood to other parts of body.
Damage of a blood vessel: If the wall of a blood vessel or lining of a vein is damaged, it may become narrowed leading to the formation of a blood clot.
DVT may cause no symptoms at all. However, some people might experience swelling, redness and pain in the affected area. Apart from these, other symptoms that can prove fatal if ignored for a long time include –
If a clot becomes dislodged and passes through the blood vessels, it can reach the lungs and cause a life-threatening blockage in it known as a pulmonary embolism.
Some of the common factors that increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis are –
- DVT is one of the major complications that can occur after a hip replacement surgery.
- According to a research, for every hour spent sitting the risk of a blood clot increases by 10 percent.
- Another study says that overweight and obese middle-aged women are more likely to develop potentially fatal blood clots within leg veins than their normal weight counterparts.
- Patients diagnosed with sleep apnoea, a snoring-related condition, are three times as likely to develop a deep vein thrombosis as non-snorers.
- Several cases have been registered where women have suffered from DVT after having a contraceptive pill.
- If you suffer from any condition that causes your blood to clot more easily than normal such as cancer, thrombophilia and Hughes syndrome, your risk of suffering from DVT increases.
- Other factors such as being overweight or obese, suffering from dehydration or any disease that restricts mobility (especially as you age) puts you at an increased risk of DVT.
Some of the diagnostic tests used to detect DVT are -
Ultrasound: The detection of blood clot in your veins can be diagnosed with the help of an ultrasound scan. A Doppler ultrasound (a special type of ultrasound) detects the flow of blood through a blood vessel.
D-dimer blood test: It is a blood test that shows broken fragments of blot clots dispersed in the bloodstream. This test is not always accurate and hence, needs to be substantiated with additional tests like an ultrasound or MRI scan.
Venography: If an ultrasound and D-dimer blood test are not successful to detect blood clot in the body, venegraphy is recommended. This method involves injection of a special dye into a vein (mostly your foot vein and an X-ray is taken. If you have a blood clot, there is a gap around that particular area as the dye is unable to flow round it.
MRI: MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging is another imaging test used to obtain detailed images of the veins and thus, check for a blood clot. Here are few things you should know about MRI.
The treatment options for DVT include:
Warm compresses: Apply warm compresses to the affected area to treat pain, swelling and inflammation. In addition to this, compression stockings are also widely used that should be fitted with professional help and reviewed every three to six months.
Pain killers: Your doctor might recommend painkiller medications to relieve pain caused due to blood clot. However, the dosage is dependent on the severity of the pain.
Anticoagulants: An anticoagulant is a substance that prevents coagulation (clotting) of blood. Anticoagulants, such as heparin or warfarin, are a type of blood thinners that work on chemical reactions in the body to increase clotting time.
Surgery: In rare cases, deep vein thrombosis requires surgery to remove blood clot thereby aiding in the normal flow of the blood to other parts of the body.
If left untreated, deep vein thrombosis may lead to –
Pulmonary embolism: It occurs when the blood clot travels through the bloodstream to the lungs and blocks passage of air, which can be fatal. Although the consequences are dependent on the size of the clot, breathing difficulties and chest pain might turn into severe health complications such as heart or lung failure.
Post-thrombotic syndrome: If the blood clot is present in the calf then there is an increased pressure in the calf tissue. This causes swelling, rashes, ulcers and pain in the calf and is known as post-thrombotic syndrome.
There are few simple yet effective tips to prevent deep vein thrombosis in people at an increased risk of suffering from the condition. These include -