DVT may occur when the blood moves through deep veins in your legs more slowly than normal or when there is some factor that makes your blood more likely to clot. When you are bedridden (after surgery, for example) or when you sit still for a long time (such as during a long plane flight), your blood moves more slowly. Blood pools in the larger veins of your legs, and clots may form. Also, injury, major illness, and some medicines increase the tendency for blood to clot.
Your risk of having DVT increases if you have some conditions, including:
Smoking cigarettes also increases the risk you will have a blood clot.
About half of people with DVT have no symptoms until a clot blocks a major vein. When DVT causes symptoms and blocks blood flow, symptoms may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. Your provider will examine you, especially any abnormal areas, such as a swollen leg. Sometimes the clotted area can be felt deep in the calf or thigh. Your legs may be measured to compare sizes on the right and left.
Tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis. The most common tests are plethysmography, ultrasound exams, and contrast venography.
Blood clots are sometimes diagnosed with a CT scan (computed tomography) of the pelvis.
The goals of treatment are:
Shots of blood thinners (anticoagulant drugs) are used to prevent the growth of a clot and to prevent new clots. Examples of these medicines are heparin, dalteparin, enoxaparin, and tinzaparin. These medicines are prescribed very carefully because they can cause internal bleeding. Treatment requires balancing the risk of internal bleeding from the medicine and the risk of clots. You will have regular blood tests to check the effect of the medicine on your blood clotting.
Your healthcare provider may also prescribe bed rest. This may seem odd because bed rest can lead to clots. But if you have a clot and have started taking medicine for it, it has long been thought that bed rest may reduce the risk that a piece of the clot will break off and cause problems somewhere else in your body. Because it is not clear whether bed rest is helpful or harmful during early treatment, your healthcare provider will consider your total health condition and advise you whether you should be up and around as usual or whether you should have a few days of bed rest.
You may start your treatment at the hospital. When your blood tests show that your dose of medicine is at a safe and stable level, you may be able to go home, where you will keep taking a blood thinner. You may learn how to give yourself shots of your medicine, a home health nurse may visit to give you the medicine, or you may be switched to warfarin (Coumadin), which you can take by mouth.
You will have your blood checked often with blood tests to make sure your blood clotting ability is in a safe and recommended range.
You may need to take a blood thinner for many weeks, maybe even for 6 months after your clot has been diagnosed. If you have a condition that keeps you at high risk for blood clots, you may need to take a blood thinner for the rest of your life.
If you take anticoagulants:
If you are taking a blood thinner, call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms:
If you have been diagnosed with DVT and you suddenly start having shortness of breath or chest pain, or you begin coughing up blood, the clot may have broken loose and moved to your lungs. Call 911 or your local emergency service right away. This can be a life-threatening emergency.
If you have had DVT or are at risk of having DVT, you can help prevent it by following these guidelines:
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Published by RelayHealth.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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