A Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in one of the deep veins of the leg or arm. If untreated, it can dislodge and move to the lungs where it becomes a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). A Pulmonary Embolism can be fatal and is sometimes called the silent killer (as it may be present without any symptoms).
Who is at risk for getting a DVT?
Sedentary individuals (as this causes decreased circulation)
Traveling individuals (for example, driving or flying for many hours at a time)
Hospitalized individuals (higher risk if they are mostly lying in bed)
Side effect of certain medications (for example, some birth control pills)
Individuals with recent surgery (blood thinners are usually prescribed for DVT prevention)
Elderly individuals (especially if they are not very mobile)
Individuals with prior blood clot(s)
Individuals with cancer
Individuals with a recent injury to the arm or leg
Individuals with varicose veins
Women who are pregnant
Individuals with congestive heart failure (CHF)
Individuals with sickle cell anemia
Individuals with an infection in the abdomen
What are the symptoms of a blood clot (DVT)?
Small area of pain in the calf, thigh, forearm or upper arm (ache or throb)
If DVT is in the leg, pain may increase with walking
Pain increases with putting pressure on that body part
Swelling in the affected body part
The skin of that area feels warm or hot
The skin of that area may look blue
May have no symptoms
What are the symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism (PE)?
Unexplained shortness of breath, even without exercise or movement
Recent, unexplained pain in the leg or arm (possible undiagnosed DVT)
Fast breathing and fast heart beat
Worsening lung or heart conditions
May have no symptoms
What is the treatment for blood clots?
Blood thinners (medication)
Bed Rest for a few days (in the hospital)
Compression Stockings, leg/foot pumps (in hospital) or ace wrap
Elevate the affected body part higher than the heart
How is a blood clot diagnosed?
Ultrasound/Doppler test of the affected body part
What should you do if you think you have a blood clot?
Go to the emergency room immediately!
Reference: Price, Sylvia & Wilson, Lorraine. Pathophysiology: Clinical Concepts of Disease Processes, 6th ed. 2003: Mosby. Pages 529-531, 603-605.