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Deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT, is a blood clot that occurs in a deep vein, most often in the legs. There are two types of veins in the leg: superficial veins and deep veins. The superficial veins are those that are located close to the surface of the skin and can often been seen with the naked eye.
Deep veins, however, are located deep in the muscles of the body. Blood flows from the superficial veins through perforator veins into the deep veins and this only occurs in one direction. When a blood clot occurs within these deep veins, it is known as a deep vein thrombosis.
It is important to remember that blood clotting actually is not bad in and of itself. In fact, it is necessary. When a person is injured, a blood clot is what stops them from bleeding to death. When a blood vessel is damaged in some way, blood clotting in necessary in order to repair the injury. Sometimes, however, a blood clot will form unnecessarily. When this is the case, it can result in further complications.
What causes deep vein thrombosis?
In order to prevent deep vein thrombosis as well as be able to recognize it when it occurs, it is important to understand how these occur. First of all, when the blood flow in the body is in some way slowed or stopped, the possibility of a blood clot forming is increased. Examples of how this could happen include: long journeys where the individual remains in one position for a lengthy period of time, a surgical procedure, bed rest or hospitalization, obesity, pregnancy, or injury to the leg which was not treated.
There are also some situations which could cause the blood to clot faster than usual (hypercoagulability). For example, smoking, certain types of medications, cancer, or genetics could lead to an increased likelihood of a blood clot. The last main cause of DVT is direct trauma to the vein. This could occur from serious bruising to the area, a fracture in the bone, or a surgical procedure.
How do you know if you are suffering from this complication? As the blood clot causes a blockage in circulation, there could be a backup of blood in the affected area. This will lead to swelling and pain, however, in some cases, none of these symptoms will be present. Due to the fact that symptoms are difficult to detect, the standard way of diagnosing DVT is through an ultrasound.
Deep Vein Thrombosis & Pulmonary Embolisms
One aspect of deep vein thrombosis that makes them so dangerous is the fact that the clot can detach from the area where it formed and travel to other parts of the body. When it becomes lodged in the main artery of the lung, it can cut off the blood supply to the lung and lead to both minor and severe consequences. Known as a pulmonary embolism, this type of complication is not uncommon, with over 300,000 suffering from a pulmonary embolism caused by deep vein thrombosis every year.
The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include shortness of breath, pain in the chest, or coughing up blood or a pink mucus. As with DVT, the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism can be confused with other issues, but it is important to diagnose and treat this quickly as it can result in death.