What You Need to Understand About Deep Vein Thrombosis

Blood clots are bad, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the worst kind. Hidden where you can’t see it, DVT may not present any symptoms, so you can walk around with DVT and never know it until it causes life-threatening problems.

Fortunately, deep vein thrombosis is treatable and even preventable. The more you know about this potentially fatal condition, the better equipped you are to lower your risk. 

Our extensive team of specialists here at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates can help you assess your risk for DVT and other types of venous diseases and treat your condition if you have it. Here’s the essential information you need to know about DVT.

Deep vein thrombosis defined

A blood clot is a solid clump of blood that forms in your veins. Any vein in your body can potentially form a clot, but deep vein thrombosis typically occurs in your legs or pelvis and sometimes your arm. 

About half the people who have DVT don’t know it because there are no warning signs. Those who do show signs see:

  • Pain, severe and unexplained
  • Swelling
  • Redness or a bluish tinge
  • Cramping
  • Skin that’s warm to the touch

If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately, because if the clot breaks loose, it can cause serious damage.

Risk factors for deep vein thrombosis

If you’re over 50, your chances of developing DVT increase, but even young people can get it. Anything that affects the way your blood flows through your veins can lead to DVT, including:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Taking birth control pills or HRT
  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • Injuries and bone fractures
  • Catheters

If any of these risk factors apply to you, avoid staying seated for long periods of time, as it increases your risk even more. Whether you sit for hours at a desk all day or take a long trip in a car or plane, make sure you walk around at regular intervals to keep your blood flowing.

The danger of deep vein thrombosis

The reason DVT is serious is because the clot may break away and travel to your lungs. If it lodges in a lung artery, it’s called a pulmonary embolism (PE), and it can be fatal without emergency care. 

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism depend on the location, the level of blockage, and other underlying conditions you may have. Generally speaking, a PE includes symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain (you may even feel like you’re having a heart attack)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough (with or without blood)
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Leg pain
  • Clammy skin

Call 911 if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if you know you’re at risk for DVT.

How to prevent and treat deep vein thrombosis

After our team evaluates you and determines your risk level for DVT, we may suggest various strategies to keep DVT at bay, including compression stockings, blood thinners, elevating your legs, and exercising more. You should also avoid sitting for hours on end, stay hydrated, and wear support socks. 

If you have DVT, lifestyle changes are the first line of defense. But if you need urgent care, we perform thrombolysis to break up the clot medically. 

In this treatment, we administer a thrombolytic medication through an IV in your arm. As the medication works its way through your veins, it dissolves the clot. The process may take up to two days. 

Although thrombolysis may dissolve your clot completely, there are cases where the treatment is unsuccessful, typically when treatment was delayed. Even if the treatment works well, you may have vein damage that we need to address after the DVT is resolved.

To learn more about your risk for DVT and possible treatment options, contact us at any of our four locations in New York, including Pomona, Goshen, Fishkill, and the Fort Washington section of Manhattan, or our Englewood, New Jersey, office.