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Signs and Symptoms of DVT

written by: Laura Latzko • edited by: Stephanie Mojica • updated: 3/17/2011

Deep vein thrombosis, a condition caused by blood clots forming in parts of the body such as the legs, often causes symptoms of DVT such as pain, swelling or redness in areas where blood clots form. DVT is often considered dangerous when patients develop pulmonary embolisms, or lung blood clots.

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    Overview

    Deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT, is a condition that results from blood clots forming within parts of the body such as the legs. People who are confined to their beds after a surgery, are obese, are taking birth control or estrogen medications, have cancer, are pregnant, have conditions that cause their blood to clot easily, are suffering from heart failure, are pregnant, smoke cigarettes or are overweight have an increased risk of developing DVT. Blood clots in the legs generally become dangerous or fatal when they spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, according to an article by Dr. Benjamin Wedro for MedicineNet.

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    Symptoms

    Many patients with DVT do not have symptoms of DVT, which means that DVT could develop without people knowing that they have blood clots. DVT often causes people to develop swelling, pain, warmth and redness in the areas of the blood clots, which could start in the neck, legs or arms. Patients with DVT in their legs could develop pain in surrounding structures, such as their calves, ankles or feet, as well as skin discoloration. Many patients develop symptoms of DVT more than once in their lives, according to the American Heart Association.

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    Related Conditions and Risks

    If DVT is not diagnosed and treated early, it can lead to major health problems, such as a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is a type of obstruction in one or more arteries within the lungs which keeps blood from reaching the lungs. The condition can lead to problems within the heart because the organ may become weaker after attempting to make up for the blockage in the lungs. The condition can cause permanent problems in the lungs and harm other organs. People that develop pulmonary embolisms as a result of DVT experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, a bloody cough, rapid heartbeats, swelling in their legs or discolored skin.

    Patients can also develop a condition called post-thrombotic, or postphlebitic, syndrome after getting DVT. Post-thrombotic syndrome occurs when blood clots within the legs cause permanent injury to the veins and affect blood flow in areas around the veins. People with this condition can experience leg pain, skin ulcers or swollen legs. Patients usually do not develop post-thrombotic syndrome until years after they get DVT, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although patients can wear compression socks to try to increase blood flow in their legs, no treatments exist to get rid of post-thrombotic syndrome.

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    Treatment

    Doctors can usually treat the symptoms of DVT by treating the condition; they regularly give patients blood thinners, such as warfarin or heparin, to keep more clots from forming. Patients have to take or get injections of the medications for months at a time. Sometimes people receive intravenous injections of medications called thrombolytic drugs, which can help to get rid of blood clots; doctors usually only give these types of drugs to patients with severe forms of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolisms. People can prevent the redevelopment of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms by losing weight, stopping smoking and drinking more water.

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    References

    Wedro, Benjamin. “Deep Vein Thrombosis," MedicineNet, http://www.medicinenet.com/deep_vein_thrombosis/article.htm

    “Economy Class Syndrome and Deep Vein Thrombosis," American Heart Association, http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3010041

    “Deep Vein Thrombosis," Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/deep-vein-thrombosis/DS01005

    “Pulmonary Embolism," Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pulmonary-embolism/DS00429

    “Deep Vein Thrombosis," American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00219

    “Deep Vein Thrombosis," U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000156.htm

    “Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)," Cleveland Clinic, http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Blood_Clots/hic_Deep_Vein_Thrombosis_DVT.aspx

    “What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis," National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Dvt/DVT_WhatIs.html

    “Pulmonary Embolism," Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Pulmonary-Embolism.aspx

    “Post Phlebitic Syndrome," Veindirectory.org, http://www.veindirectory.org/glossary/2007/09/post_phlebitic_syndrome.html

Blood Clots

Blood clots in certain parts of the body, such as the legs, can result in serious conditions such as a pulmonary embolism, or a blockage that develops within the lung's arteries. Patients often need to take anti-coagulants or thrombolytic drugs to reduce the size of or get rid of blood clots.
  1. Precautions to Take After Having a Pulmonary Embolism
  2. Signs and Symptoms of DVT
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