Why is deep vein thrombosis (DVT) so dangerous? There’s one simple answer: DVT causes 60,000 to 100,000 deaths every year.
As a specialist in vascular disease, Kishore K. Arcot, MD, FACC, at Memphis Vein Center, has extensive experience diagnosing and treating DVT before it turns into a life-threatening condition.
But he can only protect your health when you understand the condition, know the signs of DVT, and seek help. That’s why this blog gives you all the information you need to know about DVT.
Your legs have superficial and deep veins. Superficial veins are near the skin’s surface and carry deoxygenated blood to the deep veins.
The deep veins are beneath tissues and near your leg muscles. These veins push blood up your leg and back to your heart.
Blood clots can develop in any vein, but as its name suggests, a DVT is a blood clot found in a deep leg vein.
A DVT begins when blood flow slows, allowing the blood to thicken and clot. The most common causes of a venous blood clot include:
- Sitting too long
- Being on bed rest
- Taking certain medications
- Being pregnant
- Experiencing trauma to the vein
- Having certain health conditions
A blood clot in a superficial vein seldom poses a health risk. By comparison, a DVT can result in life-threatening complications.
Life-threatening pulmonary embolism
A pulmonary embolism develops when a DVT breaks free. Part or all of the blood clot can travel through your blood vessels to your lungs, blocking blood flow in one of the pulmonary arteries.
When blood can’t flow through the pulmonary arteries, your lungs don’t get enough blood to function. Additionally, oxygenated blood can’t reach the rest of your body, damaging organs like your heart and brain.
One large or several small pulmonary embolisms that significantly or completely stop blood flow create a life-threatening event.
Other DVT complications
DVTs are also closely associated with two other health problems:
Chronic venous insufficiency
DVT and chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) share a two-way relationship. DVT causes CVI, and two-thirds of people with CVI develop DVT.
CVI occurs when vein valves stop working, preventing some blood from flowing up your leg veins. This condition causes varicose veins and raises the blood pressure in your lower leg. High venous pressure leads to skin conditions and leg ulcers.
Venous leg ulcers threaten your health because they don’t heal unless we provide professional wound care. Without intensive treatment, ulcers keep enlarging, putting you at risk of developing skin and bone infections.
DVTs can cause long-lasting (chronic) symptoms like leg pain and swelling, a condition called post-thrombotic syndrome. You’re more likely to develop post-thrombotic syndrome if you’re overweight, had more than one DVT, or had a DVT above the knee instead of below it.
How to recognize a DVT
Considering what’s at risk if you have an untreated DVT, it’s crucial to know the symptoms and to schedule an exam right away.
It doesn’t matter whether a DVT causes your symptoms. What’s important is diagnosing a possible DVT at an early stage, which we do in our office using ultrasound imaging.
Most DVTs occur in the lower legs, but they can also develop in your thighs. Watch for the following symptoms:
- Leg swelling
- Leg pain
- Tenderness when pressing on your leg
- Warm skin in the area over the DVT
- Calf pain when flexing your foot
When we find a DVT before it breaks away from the leg vein, we can quickly treat it with blood-thinning and anticoagulant medications.
We may also recommend a minimally invasive procedure to insert a small filter into your vena cava. The vena cava is a large vein that carries blood from your leg to your heart. An implanted filter catches pieces of a DVT before they can reach your lungs.
Don’t hesitate to call us at Memphis Vein Center in Memphis, Tennessee, if you have any questions about leg symptoms. You can also use our online booking to request a comprehensive leg vein evaluation.