What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Blood clotting is necessary to help stop bleeding after an injury. However, sometimes blood clots form where they shouldn’t and can spell trouble for your health.  When blood clots form abnormally, they can be dangerous and block a vein or artery.  Blood clots in the veins and arteries increase the risk for heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolisms and miscarriages.  Obviously this all depends on where the clot forms. 

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when the formation of a clot occurs in a deep vein, in the calf or thigh muscle.  DVT clots can block flow of blood fully or partially and is associated with swelling and pain.  This pressure in the leg can damage blood vessels, particularly the valves within them, making you less mobile and making it harder to simply walk around.  If this clot breaks free, it can travel up the leg and to major organs like the heart or lungs and cause damage or sudden death.  If a blood clot breaks free and travels to your lungs, it's called a pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms of DVT

Half of all DVT cases cause no symptoms, so if you do have symptoms – you should call your doctor immediately.  These symptoms include:

·         Swelling in one or both legs

·         Pain or tenderness in one or both legs

·         Warmth in the skin of the affected leg

·         Red or discolored skin in the leg

·         Visible surface veins

·         Leg fatigue

Many factors can increase your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and the more you have, the greater your risk. Risk factors for DVT include:

·         Inherited blood-clotting disorder

·         Prolonged bed rest, or bouts of immobility (paralysis / hospital stay)

·         Injury or surgery

·         Pregnancy

·         Birth control / hormone replacement therapy

·         Being overweight / obesity

·         Smoking

·         Cancer

·         Heart failure

·         Inflammatory bowel disease

·         Medical or family history of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism  

·         Age over 60 

·         Sitting for long periods of time (driving or flying) 


Treatment for deep vein thrombosis is meant to stop the clot from getting any larger and from breaking loose and causing a pulmonary embolism.  As we mentioned pulmonary embolism is the biggest complication of DVT.  Subsequently, clinicians want to reduce the chances of DVT happening again. Some of the options available to treat DVT include:

·         Blood thinners (anticoagulant medications): these include enoxaparin and warfarin

  • Clotbusters: meant to break up the clot and known as thrombolytics
  • Filters: this is a filter insert that goes into a large vein in the abdomen and prevents clots from breaking loose and finding their way to the lungs 
  • Compression stockings: These help prevent swelling and prevent bluff from pooling and clotting

While traveling this summer, remember to stay well-hydrated by drinking lots of water especially on long flights. You should be getting up and walking around every hour or so to help get the blood circulating and help prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or clotting in the legs. According to the American Heart Association, risk factors for DVT include dehydration and low cabin pressure.