Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a hard to detect medical condition that can result in severe and even potentially life-threatening health problem. But, before we delve into what these risks are it will be helpful to gain some understanding of the human circulatory system (the cardiovascular or vascular system), about blood clots, and finally about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) itself.

Circulatory System:

Heart, blood, and blood vessels (arteries, veins, & capillaries) — these make up the cardiovascular system which permits blood to transport nutrients, oxygen and white blood cells (among other things) from the heart to the cells in tissues and organs. Thereafter, oxygen-depleted blood is carried away from these cells back to the heart. This process is important for several critical functions of the human body such as providing nourishment and fighting diseases. While arteries carry oxygenated blood, veins carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Veins are usually positioned closer to the skin’s surface and contain valves that help keep blood flowing in the right direction (towards the heart).

Blood Clots:

A blood clot (thrombus) is formed inside a blood vessel under certain conditions thereby obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system. When the clot, or a piece it, breaks free (now called an embolus) and travels through the bloodstream, it can clog arteries or capillaries that could, in severe cases, result in potentially life-threatening complications.

Possible precipitating factors of blood clots:

  • post surgery (especially if its surgery in the lower regions, such as joint replacements)
  • as a consequence of some diseases, such as cancer, heart failure, stroke, or a severe infection
  • long periods of immobility (e.g., lengthy confinement to bed or prolonged sitting during a flight or drive)
  • as a side effect of using oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • smoking
  • a family history of DVT
  • obesity (extreme overweight) which puts pressure on veins (especially in the legs)
  • due to pregnancy and childbirth (especially due to a cesarean)
  • certain medical conditions, such as Factor V Leiden, that impact the blood’s clotting process
  • injuries that damage veins
  • you are also at higher risk for blood clots if you over 50 and especially after 70 years

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

DVT is the formation of a blood clot inside a deep vein (veins located deep inside the body), usually in the thigh or lower legs but also potentially in other areas of the body. (Note that blood clots that form in veins close to the skin are not likely to cause problems.) Since DVT is actually very hard to detect, awareness of what might cause a blood clot (any one or more of the acquired or genetic risk factors listed in the table above) will enable better monitoring for the presence of DVT and its timely diagnosis and treatment. In addition to knowing what might cause DVT there are certain common symptoms of its presence such as:

  • swelling in the affected foot, ankle, or leg
  • severe, unexplained pain in your foot and ankle
  • an area of skin that feels warmer than the surrounding areas
  • reddish or bluish color skin over the affected area

Risks of DVT:

Pulmonary embolism is a potentially life-threatening condition that results from the sudden blockage of a major blood vessel (artery) in the lung usually by a blood clot resulting from DVT. The restricted blood flow results in the blood’s insufficient oxygenation in the lungs which consequently has adverse effects not only on the lung but also on other organs. Moreover, if the clot is large enough it can completely arrest the flow of blood to the lung which can be deadly. The most common symptoms of pulmonary embolism are a sudden shortness of breath, sharp chest pain (especially when you cough or take a deep breath), and cough that brings up pink, foamy mucus. If left undiagnosed or untreated, pulmonary embolisms can result in death in one-third of affected people.

Heart failure, a condition that makes it more difficult for your heart to pump blood, can also occurs when blood clots resulting from DVT block arteries leading to the heart.

Brain stroke can also result in a similar manner if the blood clots from DVT travel to the arteries or veins in the brain.

Postthrombotic Syndrome (PTS) is a condition that develops in nearly half of all patients suffering from DVT. As stated above, veins have tiny valves that control the direction of blood flow. A blood clot that remains for too long in the affected leg or other region of the body can cause inflammation and block the flow of blood. This can damage the veins and its valves and valves that don’t work correctly allow blood to flow backwards and pool, instead of pushing it toward the heart. The resultant pooling of deoxygenated blood around the affected area causes pain and swelling — a condition called vericose veins. As PTS worsens, poor blood flow in the leg can even cause leg ulcers.



With such sever risks associated with DVT that could even be life-threatening it is essential to make yourself aware of how to prevent its occurrence and manage and cure it if it is already present.