March has begun and thus begins deep vein thrombosis awareness month – and so here I am, raising awareness.
As stated by the NHS website ‘DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a blood clot that develops within a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg’. If you want to impress your friends you can say ‘deep vein thrombosis is a venous thrombus that develops within a deep vein’. Most commonly, deep vein thrombosis occurs in the deep leg vein, however it can occur elsewhere such as the arms, so forgive me if my focus through this article is mainly on the legs.
If you search up ‘deep vein thrombosis’ on Google images, the photos you will find are of legs but one leg is swollen, red and blotchy. Naturally, this swollen leg comes with pain – tenderness, aching and warmth within the affected leg, and yes, bending it would be difficult and very painful. These are the most common symptoms for a DVT patient. On the other hand, there are cases of DVT where no symptoms are detected at all. Whilst that seems like a good thing (I mean: no pain, why would that be bad?), it’s really not. In my opinion, the fact that some people can have no symptoms at all is extremely worrying. This is because if DVT is left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening complications…
One of the less serious (but don’t get me wrong, still serious) complications of DVT is post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS). This develops in nearly half of all patients who experience DVT. PTS causes chronic leg pain, swelling, redness and ulcers that may be expensive to treat and cause lots of discomfort.
However, the most serious complication happens to those who are left untreated. Around 1 in 10 people with DVT who go untreated develop a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is caused when a part of the blood clot from the DVT breaks off from the deep leg vein and enters the bloodstream into a major blood vessel: the arteries in the lungs. This is potentially fatal if the blood clot is large as it can cause the lungs to collapse resulting in heart failure. If you have DVT, the warning signs of a pulmonary embolism include shortness of breath, chest pain (especially when trying to take a deep breath in or when you cough), nausea, a rapid pulse and even coughing up blood.
So what causes DVT? Many, many, many different things. Some people actually inherit a blood-clotting disorder from their family that cause it to be easier for their blood to clot – whilst this isn’t the cause of DVT by itself, it increases the risk for them developing DVT. Another factor that can cause DVT is prolonged lack of movement (e.g. paralysis, bed rest etc.) as muscles need to contract in order to help blood circulate – in the leg, the calf muscle needs to contract. Even simply being pregnant puts you under risk consequently to an increase in pressure in the veins of the pelvis and legs. Other factors include smoking, obesity and age.
Not many people know about DVT – neither did I until I came across it on NHS Choice’ Facebook page. The treatment for DVT is as simple as pills – anticoagulant medicines. The prevention of DVT is as simple as a healthy lifestyle. Yet when people get it and don’t know what DVT is, it could potentially lead to their death. It is important people know about DVT, and now that you do, you know all the symptoms and if it happens to you, seek immediate medical attention before complications occur.
Make sure you spread awareness with me; let all your friends know about DVT.
By Antonia Jayme
Make sure you read the sources from which all my information comes from to learn more about DVT, including its diagnosis: