When you suspect you have a deep vein thrombosis, it can be a scary thing. A few years ago, I had my first deep vein thrombosis. At the time I didn't know what was happening, and it took a while to get diagnosed. One of the problems with these diseases is that they can look like other problems, in all.
Main causes of DVT
DVT's can happen to anyone, but they are particularly likely to affect some categories of people, including:
- The obese
- People who are pregnant
- People who take contraception
- People with a history of DVT in their family
- People who have recently been incapacitated or gone into surgery.
- Anyone who has been on a long haul flight.
In addition, some people are more likely to get DVTs than others because they have genetic disorders that make this more likely to happen.
Main Symptoms of DVT
- Predominantly the major symptom of a Deep Vein thrombosis is swelling (like in the picture). Some people have described a DVT leg as like an upside down champagne bottle.
- You often find that the area is discoloured in fact, it is often red.
- The leg may be hard to the touch.
- You may feel pain
- The leg may be hot to the touch
- Your ankle and leg may swell up
Even if you get all these symptoms it doesn't mean you have got a DVT. It may mean that it is time to go to the doctor who will do one of three tests.
Tests for DVT's
Your doctor will probably give you a physical exam, and then order one or more of the following:
It is possible to get a blood test done that can determine that you have probably had a DVT. The process isn't painful, although it is never pleasant to give blood
It is not a particularly pleasant process, but it shows whether you have any blockages.
Venogram for DVT
This is a machine that effectively takes the blood pressure in your leg, and can determine whether there is anything blocking your leg or not.
Treatments for DVT
There are various treatments for DVT's, but without exception these treatments work best if they are used very quickly. When you are admitted to hospital, you will get a low molecular weight heparin or similar given to you quickly. This removes a lot of the risk of further clotting.
There are mixtures of chemical and surgery treatments that can remove your clot from the leg, if treated quickly. I don't think it is appropriate for me to go into them in detail. But it is urgent that you see a specialist right away.
Most of these techniques can't be used after 24 hours.
By far the most serious complication of DVT is a pulmonary embolus. This is one of the main causes of deaths in the US. You can reduce the risk of pulmonary embolus dramatically by seeking immediate medical attention.
It is possible for doctors, if they think you are at risk, to put a stent in that prevents a PE.
Anti clotting drugs can also reduce the possibility of clotting.
The reality is that many people get a complication called post thrombotic disorder, which means your legs swell up, and you can have pain. Surgical stockings reduce the risk substantially.
Should you take exercise after a DVT?
Providing that you do not feel pain, walking and light exercise immediately after a DVT is very much recommended. You should, of course, seek medical advice. But in general, the medical research that I have seen shows better results for people who continue to take exercise.
If you continue to experience pain, it is important to discuss it with your doctor. There are things they can do to help
When can you go back to work?
The most dangerous period after a DVT is the first 48 hours. During that time, you should be in medical observation, either by your doctor or by a hospital. During that time, the blood clot attaches to your leg. After 48 hours, your risks fall dramatically.
Everyone is different, but if you are without pain, going back to work after that period should be possible providing that you make sure you do not allow your leg to swell up.
Resting and crossing your leg.
This is an important topic. Your risk of having another clot is not zero. After a DVT, in general you should keep your leg UP, on a foot stool when resting. You should walk around every 30 minutes if you are working at a computer, and you should train yourself not to cross your legs.
After a year or two you can let up on this.
Medical treatment after the first 48 hours
Depending on your circumstance, it is normal to give you warfarin (or Coumadin in the US ) is normally administered. While on warfarin, you should try to keep a stable diet, and avoid cranberry juice. You will need to take regular appointments to monitor this drug. Unsupervised, it is very dangerous. The monitoring process involves regular blood tests.
There are other forms of treatment, for people who are unable to use warfarin, but if appropriate your doctor will explain them to you.
Don't be too scared
Most people who get DVT and are treated go on to live good, healthy and normal lives.