Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT)��affects approximately 2 million Americans each year, according to the Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis. While treatment is available, DVT can cause serious disability and even death. To help you better understand this potentially life-threatening occurrence, here is a guide to DVT:
DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein within the body. While superficial veins are close to the flesh, deep veins are embedded much further below the surface. Deep veins are usually found near a major artery, and their less accessible��location makes surgical intervention difficult. When a blood clot forms in the vein, it��may stop the flow of blood and block circulation.��The clot��can break��away and travel to another part of the body, potentially blocking blood flow��to a��vital organ, such as the lungs or brain.
Note that clotting is generally a natural physical process that is important to healing. Blood clots help heal small cuts and prevent wounds from hemorrhaging. A blood clot that prevents the organ from functioning properly is known as an embolism and could lead to lifelong health complications or death. Most deep vein clots first form in the thighs and lower legs.
A number of conditions��can cause blood clots to form inside deep veins. An injury or surgery��may cause damage to the vein’s inner lining. Immobility can slow down your circulation, making the blood more likely to coagulate and form clots. Some people have underlying health conditions that cause them to have thicker blood, which increases the likelihood of clotting.
Certain individuals are at a higher risk for developing DVT than others.��People at risk for DVT may have had DVT in the past.��Pregnant women and new mothers are more susceptible to DVT. Individuals undergoing cancer treatment or using a central venous catheter can develop blood clots. Obesity, smoking and old age also contribute to DVT risk.
One half of people who develop DVT show no signs or symptoms, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. DVT can develop anywhere in the body, but people who do experience symptoms will often feel the first signs of DVT in their legs. Effects of DVT may include swelling, pain, tenderness, skin discoloration and increased warmth, all on the leg.
DVT becomes more evident if a person experiences an embolism.��A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot travels to the lungs, and it may cause shortness of breath, painful breathing or coughing up blood. Brain embolisms��result in stroke, which can cause permanent brain damage.
DVT treatment��aims to stop the clot from growing, keep it in place and prevent any��more clots.��Doctors commonly��use anticoagulants��to make blood thinner and��keep clots from forming and growing. These medications do not dissolve��any existing blood clots, which your body will usually resolve over time. The primary side effect for anticoagulants is excessive bleeding, as clots usually prevent the body from blood loss. Additional treatment options include a vena cava filter to catch clots before they travel to other organs.