Deep vein thrombosis is caused by a number of factors, and it can be fatal if it is unnoticed or untreated. However, in most cases this condition can be treated and prevented. Read on to learn more about what deep vein thrombosis is, what causes is it, and how to treat and prevent it.
What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is basically a blood clot that forms inside one of the deep veins of the body. Deep veins are any veins far beneath the surface of the skin, closer to the bones. These veins are normally large and located near an artery of the same name. For example, the femoral vein is next to the femoral artery. Deep vein thrombosis most commonly occurs in the veins of the legs, such as within the thigh or calf muscles. Deep vein thrombosis is potentially life-threatening because of the risk of the clot breaking off and circulating through the body to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism blocks the flow of blood through the lungs and causes difficulty breathing, palpitations and chest pain and can be fatal. DVT does not, however, cause strokes or heart attacks.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Diagram
Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
There are a variety of causes for deep vein thrombosis or blood clots. Here are some of the main factors that raise the risk of developing blood clots:
- Some people have clotting disorders that cause clots to form more easily.
- Women who smoke, are over the age of 35 and take birth control are at higher risk.
- People with atrial fibrillation can more easily develop clots.
- Being immobile for extended periods of time can cause clots to form in the legs.
- Being overweight increases the risk of DVT.
- People over the age of 60 are at a higher risk.
- Cancer can cause clots to form more easily.
Symptoms of DVT
Signs that you may have a deep vein thrombosis include:
- Pain, cramping or soreness in one of the legs
- Swelling and/or a sensation of heat in one or both of the legs. This is normally seen in the area of the calf or groin.
- An area of redness or bluish discoloration
Signs that a clot has gone to the lungs:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain that worsens with coughing or deep breathing
- Rapid pulse or heart rate
- Coughing up blood
Medications & Prevention of DVT
Medications to treat and prevent DVT are often referred to as ‘blood thinners’. However, they do nothing to change the viscosity of blood. They act on certain enzymes and proteins in the blood that form fibrin which combines with platelets to form clots.
Well-known DVT medications include drugs like warfarin and heparin that have been prescribed to treat and prevent clots for decades. There are also newer drugs on the market for DVT called Xa inhibitors. These drugs inhibit a specific enzyme in the coagulation process called factor Xa.
Treatment options for deep vein thrombosis will sometimes depend on the underlying causes. For instance, an Xa inhibitor called Savaysa is a new drug on the market that prevents DVT in patients that have atrial fibrillation. It can also be used to treat DVT or pulmonary embolism in patients that have already been treated with blood thinners. Drugs that are similar to Savaysa include Xarelto and Eliquis. HelpRx provides discounts on all of these medications that can be used at most U.S. pharmacies.
If you are at risk for developing blood clots, don’t smoke cigarettes. Also, if you know you have a higher risk for DVT and you are taking birth control, talk to your doctor about lower-risk forms of birth control that are less likely to contribute to the formation of clots.