What is deep vein thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein located deep inside your body. A blood clot is a clump of blood that is in a gelatinous, solid state. Deep vein blood clots typically form in your thigh or lower leg, but they can also develop in other areas of your body. Other names for this condition include thromboembolism, post-thrombotic syndrome, and post-phlebitic syndrome.
Deep vein thrombosis or DVT is a condition wherein a blood cloth forms deep within the vein system. Thrombus or a blood clot normally forms inside the deep veins of the arms or the legs. When a clot is formed inside the vein system, it can lead to inflammation of the vein known as thrombophlebitis.
Normally affecting the popliteal or femoral veins, which are the veins in the legs, thrombosis can lead to the blood flowing in the reverse direction towards the heart and lungs instead of away from it.
A recent survey has revealed that more than 60,000 people in the US alone die of deep vein thrombosis every year. Deep vein thrombosis which is often misunderstood for heart attacks, can lead to damaged blood vessel walls, decreased blood flow, and increase in hypercoagulability or the tendency for the blood to clot.
A blood clot which can materialize in almost any part of the body leads to redness, pain and swelling of the skin just above the region where the clot is formed.
Deep vein thrombosisis an extremely serious medical condition which can lead to death if left untreated. Some people are more likely to develop deep vein clots than others. People who sit for extended periods of time, chain smokers, women who are on birth control pills for an extended period of time, people suffering from cancer or other heart ailments are more likely to develop deep vein clots.
Deep vein thrombosiscan be termed a silent killer because in more than half the cases a person may not display any outwardly symptoms. The very first symptom of deep vein thrombosis is swelling accompanied by redness or some discoloration in one or both the legs. Later the legs may develop a bluish tinge which signifies that than enough blood and oxygen are not reaching the legs.
In some people, deep vein thrombosis makes the legs appear whitish. Known as phlegmasia alba dolens, which translates to milk leg or white leg, the leg turns white because of a mild occlusion or obstruction in the blood vessel. The paleness of the leg is accompanied by pain, edema and increase in temperature around the affected part.
As the condition progresses, the person complains of extreme pain when standing or walking. If deep vein thrombosis is left untreated, it can lead to pulmonary embolism and ultimately death.
- Stopping the blood clot from getting bigger
- Preventing the blood clot from breaking off and moving to your lungs
- Reducing your chance of having another blood clot
Anticoagulants are the most common medicines for treating DVT. They’re also known as blood thinners. These medicines decrease your blood’s ability to clot. They also stop existing blood clots from getting bigger. However, blood thinners can’t break up blood clots that have already formed. (The body dissolves most blood clots with time.)
Blood thinners can be taken as either a pill, an injection under the skin, or through a needle or tube inserted into a vein (called intravenous, or IV, injection).
Warfarin and heparin are two blood thinners used to treat DVT. Warfarin is given in pill form. (Coumadin is a common brand name for warfarin.) Heparin is given as an injection or through an IV tube. There are different types of heparin. Your doctor will discuss the options with you.
Your doctor may treat you with both heparin and warfarin at the same time. Heparin acts quickly. Warfarin takes 2 to 3 days before it starts to work. Once the warfarin starts to work, the heparin is stopped.
Newer anticoagulants are under development that will be easier to use than warfarin, because there is less bleeding risk without the monitoring required for warfarin.