Getting treatment for deep vein thrombosis is not negotiable. Even if you have mild symptoms, it’s essential to seek help because this condition can turn into a life-threatening crisis.
How threatening? Complications from deep vein thrombosis cause 60,000 to 100,000 deaths every year in the United States.
You can count on comprehensive care for deep vein thrombosis at the Memphis Vein Center. Board-certified cardiologist Kishore K. Arcot, MD, offers diagnostic imaging in our office followed by prompt, customized treatment, allowing you to get back to enjoying your life.
Here’s everything you need to know about why you should never ignore deep vein thrombosis.
About deep vein thrombosis
Some veins in your body, called superficial veins, lie just below the skin’s surface. By comparison, deep veins are found below layers of tissues, where they’re surrounded by muscles.
Superficial veins carry blood from the surrounding tissues to deep veins. The deep veins, which are thicker and stronger, are responsible for carrying blood back to your heart.
When a blood clot develops in a deep vein, you have deep vein thrombosis. These blood clots typically occur when your blood flow slows, you have an injury that damages the vein, or something makes your blood clot when it shouldn’t.
For example, sitting for a long time or having major surgery slows down circulation, while medications containing estrogen make your blood clot more easily. Vein damage may occur due to inflammatory diseases, high blood pressure, and traumatic injuries.
Though deep vein thrombosis could develop anywhere in your body, it most often affects your legs.
Health risks caused by deep vein thrombosis
Most people with deep vein thrombosis experience leg pain and swelling (caused by excessive fluids, not inflammation). Your pain may feel more like an occasional muscle ache, or you could have sudden, severe pain. You may also have tenderness and warm-feeling skin in the area above the blood clot.
Beyond localized symptoms, the blood clot in your leg causes two complications that can lead to serious consequences:
Chronic venous insufficiency
When deep vein thrombosis goes untreated, it can damage valves in the vein, interfere with the flow of blood, and result in blood going back down the leg vein instead of up toward your heart.
These changes cause high pressure in the lower leg veins, which leads to problems such as skin discoloration and thickening, an eczema-like skin rash, and leg ulcers called venous stasis ulcers.
Venous stasis ulcers never heal on their own. They get larger, destroy more of the surrounding tissues, and put you at risk for serious skin and bone infections.
A pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening emergency. This health crisis occurs when the blood clot breaks away from the vein wall in your leg and travels to your lungs. Once the clot is loose in your vein, it’s called an embolus.
Inside your lungs, the embolus can get stuck in the arteries and stop the flow of blood. That’s when you have a pulmonary embolism. At the very least, a small pulmonary embolism kills the lung tissues that no longer receive oxygenated blood.
At worst, a large pulmonary embolism blocks most or all of the blood traveling to your heart from your lungs. This causes low blood pressure and death.
It’s important to recognize the signs of a pulmonary embolism:
- Shortness of breath
- Sharp chest pain when you breathe
- Cough that may produce blood
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Seek emergency medical care immediately if you have signs of a pulmonary embolism.
Essential treatment for deep vein thrombosis
The challenge of deep vein thrombosis is that you can’t predict when the clot might break free. And if it does, whether it will be large enough to block the blood vessels in your lungs. That’s why it’s essential to get early treatment for deep vein thrombosis.
We diagnose deep vein thrombosis in the office using vascular ultrasound. Then we can immediately give you medications that thin your blood and dissolve the clot.
In severe cases, we may insert a slim catheter into your leg vein and administer the clot-busting drug inside the vein directly to the clot. We may also recommend inserting a vena cava filter, especially if you can’t take medications.
The vena cava is a large vein in your abdomen. Placing a mesh filter into this vein catches loose pieces of a blood clot before they reach your lungs.
If you have leg pain or swelling, call us at our Memphis, Tennessee, center right away or request an appointment online. We’re here to determine the cause of your symptoms and prevent the potentially deadly complications of deep vein thrombosis.