When a blood clot (also known as a thrombus) develops in the deep veins of the body, typically in the legs, it leads to a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This can cause symptoms such as pain or swelling in the leg, but sometimes there may not be any obvious signs. Up to 50% of people who get a DVT in their legs experience periodic limb pain and swelling that could linger for months or years. These symptoms, known as post-thrombotic syndrome, can be caused by harm to the veins’ valves and inner lining, which causes blood to “pool” more than it should. This results in pain and swelling as the pressure inside your veins rises.
Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of developing blood clots due to their effect on the clotting process. Staying immobile for an extended period of time, such as during long-distance travel or post-operative bed rest, can lead to the formation of blood clots in the legs.
Because blood clots in the veins have the potential to break away, deep vein thrombosis can be dangerous. After that, the clots may move through the bloodstream and become lodged in the lungs, obstructing blood flow (pulmonary embolism). Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the term used to describe the combination of DVT and pulmonary embolism.
Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) include:
- Leg pain, soreness, or cramping that typically begins in the calf
- Leg swelling
- A warm sensation on the afflicted leg
- A change in skin color on the leg, sometimes turning it red or purple depending on your skin color.
- Pain in the abdomen or the flank due to the blood clots affecting the veins inside abdomen.
- Seizures or a severe headache, usually with a sudden onset due to the blood clots affecting the brain’s veins.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can develop without presenting any apparent symptoms. If you experience any symptoms of DVT, it is advisable to contact your doctor promptly. In the case of life-threatening signs of a Pulmonary Embolism (PE), a complication of DVT, seek immediate medical attention.
The following are the symptoms and warning indications of a pulmonary embolism:
- Difficulty of breathing that occurs suddenly
- Pain or discomfort in the chest that intensifies while taking deep breaths or coughing.
- Losing consciousness
- Very fast pulse rate or breathing
- Presence of blood when coughing
- Dizziness or light headedness
Anything that disrupts the normal flow or clotting of blood can lead to the formation of a blood clot.
DVT is primarily brought on by damage to a vein following surgery, inflammation, infection, or injury.
There are numerous factors that can raise the risk of DVT. The risk of DVT increases with the more of risk factors you have. DVT risk factors include:
- Age. DVT risk goes up after 60 years of age. Yet, DVT can happen at any age.
- Lack of movement. Calf muscles do not contract while the legs are still for an extended period of time. Blood flow is aided by muscle contractions. DVT risk is increased by prolonged sitting, such as when driving or flying. The same is true for prolonged bed rest, which may be brought on by a long hospital stay or a physical condition like paralysis.
- Injury or surgery. Blood clot risk might be increased by surgery or vein injury.
- Pregnancy. The pressure in the pelvic and leg veins rises during pregnancy. After giving birth, the risk of blood clots due to pregnancy-related factors may persist for up to six weeks. Individuals with inherited clotting disorders are at an even higher risk.
- Oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. Both have the capacity to develop blood clots.
- Being overweight or obese. The pressure in the legs’ and pelvis’ veins rises when a person is overweight.
- Smoking. Smoking has an impact on blood clotting and flow, which raises the possibility of DVT.
- Cancer. Some malignancies produce an increase in blood clotting proteins. Certain cancer treatments also raise the chance of blood clots.
- Heart failure. DVT and pulmonary embolism risk factors for heart failure are increased. Those with heart failure have impaired heart and lung function, making even a tiny pulmonary embolism more noticeable.
- Inflammatory bowel disease. DVT risk is increased by ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
- A personal or family history of DVT or PE. You may be more likely to develop DVT if you or a family member has experienced one or both of these illnesses.
- Genetics. Blood clots more readily in some persons due to DNA changes. Leiden’s factor V is one illustration. One of the blood’s clotting components alters as a result of this hereditary condition. Blood clots may not be brought on by an inherited condition on its own unless other risk factors are present.
Sometimes, a blood clot may occur in a vein without any apparent risk factors. This type of blood clot is known as an unprovoked venous thromboembolism (VTE).