I’ve Had a Deep Vein Thrombosis, What Should I be Worried About?

Suffering a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can be a very scary thing. This disorder occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein (a vessel which returns blood to the heart) deep within the body, usually in the pelvis or legs. The estimate of the annual incidence of DVT is over 3.5 million cases worldwide1. Each one can be a serious threat to a patient’s health.

Link to Pulmonary Embolism
A majority of these thromboses develop in the legs. Although many cause swelling, pain, increased warmth in the area of swelling and discoloration; some have no signs or symptoms.

DVT is a serious condition. A patient with this disorder is at risk for blood clots forming and traveling to the lungs. A pulmonary embolism is a clot that blocks a blood vessel in the lungs. The warning signs of an embolism, which can be fatal, include2:

  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Pain with deep breathing
  • Coughing up blood

Postthrombotic Syndrome
Postthrombotic Syndrome (PTS) is a common complication that strikes patients who have had a DVT. It also goes by the name postphlebitic syndrome.Postthrombotic syndrome, which affects as many as 20-50 percent of DVT patients, is the result of damage a blood clot does to veins when it cuts blood flow in the areas affected. One of the most dangerous aspects of this disorder is that sometime symptoms don’t appear until years after a DVT. 3,4

This painful disorder is actually an umbrella term for a collection of symptoms. The most common include5:

  • Pain, aching and swelling in the leg
  • Leg heaviness
  • Leg itching or tingling
  • Leg cramping
  • An ulcer (sore) on the leg

If you have suffered a DVT and are experiencing these symptoms, you should consult with your physician.

Preventing Another DVT

Up to 30% of patients who have a DVT are at risk for a second within ten years. Patients who have had recent hospitalization, surgery, cancer or at risk for blood disorders that increase the chances of developing blood clots face elevated risk for another DVT. Doctors typically prescribe compression stockings and/or medications which thin the blood to prevent the formation of clots.6

Overall, the best way to help avoid another DVT is to prevent a blood clot from developing. Following a few simple steps can reduce the chances of another DVT:

  • Follow your doctor’s orders regarding compression stockings and medications
  • Adopt a habit of regular exercise
  • Implement lifestyle changes like shedding excess weight and tobacco use, both of which boost DVT risk

 

Footnotes
1- Fowkes FJ, Price JF, Fowkes FG. Incidence of diagnosed deep vein thrombosis in the general population: systematic review.Eur J VascEndovasc Surg. 2003 Jan;25(1):1-5.

2- What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute site. October 28, 2011. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dvt/signs Accessed January 23, 2015.

3- Prandoni P, Lensing A, CogoA, et al. The long-term clinical course of acute deep venous thrombosis. Ann Intern Med.1996;125(1):1-7.

4- Kahn SR, Shrier I, Julian JA, et al. Determinants and time course of the post-thrombotic syndrome after acute deep venous thrombosis. Ann Intern Med. 2008;149:698-707.

5- Cardiology Patient Page. Postthrombotic Syndrome. Vazquez SR, Kahn SR. Circulation site. Available at: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/121/8/e217.full Accessed January 23, 2015.

6- Deep Vein Thrombosis Prevention. McBane RD, Heit JA. Abstracted by Brown KR. American Venous Forum site. 2009. Available at: http://www.veinforum.org/uploadDocs/1/Chapter-4—Deep-Vein-Thrombosis-Prevention.pdf Accessed January 23, 2015.

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