Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition where a blood clot forms in the deep veins, usually the legs.
Blood clots are caused by anything that disrupts normal blood flow or proper blood clotting. You are at a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis if you have had limited mobility for a period of time, injury to your veins, and if your body has increased its ability to clot.
Half of all deep vein thrombosis cases cause no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually happen suddenly and include swelling in one or both legs, leg pain, and/or warmth and redness in the affected leg. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If deep vein thrombosis is left untreated, it can lead to serious complications and even death. The blood clot can block the blood circulation from your leg and, if left untreated, can damage the affected vein causing a condition called post-thrombotic syndrome. Post-thrombotic syndrome occurs when a deep vein is damaged from a blood clot, allowing backflow of blood in the leg. This backflow of blood causes blood to pool in the lower legs, which results in chronic leg swelling, varicose veins, leg pain, leg skin discoloration and leg ulcers. More seriously, the deep vein thrombosis can dislodge and travel to the arteries of your lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism, which is often fatal.
The usual treatment for deep vein thrombosis includes blood thinners such as Coumadin and Lovenox. To help prevent a DVT from forming, maintain an active lifestyle and a healthy weight, quit smoking, walk often on airplane flights or long car rides, and wear compression stockings.