What is deep vein thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT or thrombophlebitis)is the formation of clots in the deep veins, which is very common in the legs which usually begins inside the calf veins.One of the complications of deep vein thrombosis is pulmonary embolism, a detachment of blood clot which travels to lungs. This may cause life threatening issues. One of the most common deep vein thrombosis symptoms is swelling along a vein in the leg. The swelling gets bigger as the pull of gravity increases on the leg affected such as when standing erecting or walking for a long period of time.

Deep vein thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis

A German pathologist in 1856 Rudolf Virchow described the interplay of somethree processes that leads to formation of thrombus which Rudolf coined as Virchow’s triad which are decreased blood flow rate (venous stasis), increased tendency of ‘venous’ blood to clot (also called hypercoagulability), anddrastic changes to the blood vessel wall.

Deep vein thrombosis causes

People who had knee replacement surgery are often at a higher risk of having deep vein thrombosis as well as a combination of several other factors such as the following:

1. Anti-phospholipid syndrome

2. Age (old age also predispose people to developing DVT): Blood composition alteration may also cause clotting the primary cause of deep vein thrombosis

3. Trauma

4. Orthopedic surgeries

5. Cancers e.g. Bone marrow cancer

6. Obesity

7. Infections such as HIV and bone diseases

8. Intravenous drug applications

9. Oral contraceptive usage

10. Hormonal replacement therapy and many others.

11. Pregnancy also causes blood clot easily. Also hormonal influences may contribute to this in pregnant women.

12. Smoking

Deep vein thrombosis may also be caused by platelet activation, changes in endothelial blood vessels and concentration of oxygen.

Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis presents several symptoms which often show visible signs of swelling on the skin of leg and limbs affected.

Signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis may not be enough to conclude if a patient is having DVT however, exclusion  of edema, hematoma and varicose veins may have to be eliminated through differential diagnosis to determine if DVT is present or not.

The following are classical deep vein thrombosis symptoms:

1. Redness or discoloration of the surface veins on the body.

2. Painful and blue tinged leg: This is very common in Phlegmasia cerulean Dolens DVT which may also lead to gangarene on the skin.

3. Edema (swollen legs due to accumulation of fluids in the intracellular spaces).

4. Swelling of the calf veins

5. A feeling of warmth around the veins.

6. Painful tenderness in the calf or the thigh.

7. Complications of DVT- pulmonary embolism may present other symptoms such as coughing up blood, chest tightness and difficulty breathing.

The most common test for diagnosing DVT is ultrasound scan; venography and D-dimer test may also be recommended. Advance cases of DVT may necessitate recommendations of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) computerized tomography (CT) scans. Also, in the case of pulmonary embolism (PE) occurring as complication, lung ventilation perfusion scan may be recommended to exclude PE.

If you start experience leg pain which increases with time with physical manifestation of bulging veins on your calf or thigh it may be high time to see your doctor for proper diagnosis before it gets worse.

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