Deep vein thrombosis 101: Everything you should know

blood clot

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot develops within a deep vein in the body; this typically happens in the leg. Being sedentary can increase your chance of developing blood clots. Key symptoms to watch out for include swelling, tenderness, pain and skin redness. 

DVT is a serious condition and may lead to severe health problems if left untreated. Blood clots can break off, travel through your bloodstream to other parts of your body, and potentially cause a life-threatening condition such as a pulmonary embolism (PE). Possible symptoms of PE may include sudden shortness of breath, chest pain that can worsen as you breathe deeply, cough, or cough up blood — as well as feeling dizzy or faint. 

Various causes and risk factors are known to cause individuals to develop DVT. 

  • Immobility or bed rest can cause blood to pool in your legs, which can increase your risk of forming clots. 
  • Some surgeries increase your risk as well: hip, knee and abdominal surgeries increase your risk due to decreased movement and sudden changes in your blood flow. 
  • Injuries, especially to the veins in your legs, can cause clots to form. 
  • A family history of DVT can increase your risk as well and adults over the age of 60 can experience DVT at a higher rate. 
  • Women who are pregnant or taking birth control pills tend to have a higher risk of blood clots forming, especially when the weight of the fetus is pressing on the veins in their pelvis, restricting the blood flow. 

According to the CDC, more than half of people with DVT do not have any symptoms. 

Here are some preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing DVT. 

  • Active lifestyle. Regular exercise will improve your blood circulation and prevent blood from pooling and clotting. A simple daily walk can be very beneficial. 
  • Drink your water. Staying hydrated may help to prevent your blood from thickening, which is a known factor in clots forming. 
  • Wear compression socks. These can be especially helpful to those who fly frequently. Compression socks can prevent swelling and reduce your risk of forming blood clots in your legs. 
  • Make healthy lifestyle decisions. Keep your weight in a healthy range, don’t smoke, and manage any chronic conditions you have to reduce your risks. 
  • Medication. If you have a very high risk, your physician may prescribe blood thinners to prevent blood clots from forming. Take all medication as prescribed. 

Your health care provider may run various diagnostic tests to confirm a DVT diagnosis. The tests may include an ultrasound, blood test, MRI or CT scan. 

Learn more about deep vein thrombosis care at Northside Hospital Heart Institute


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Dr. Thomas C. Matthews is a board-certified vascular surgeon with extensive experience in complex aortic reconstruction/open aortic surgery. He has a robust set of skills that encompass all aspects of vascular disease. 

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