Patients with severe varicose veins should be aware of their increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Since varicose veins are near the skin’s surface, most patients won’t experience DVT. However, in some cases, a blood clot can develop in the deep veins and cause death. About 200,000 Canadians experience DVT each year.
What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
If a person has DVT, it means a blood clot has formed in a deep vein, typically in the legs. Whereas Superficial Venous Thrombosis (SVT) occurs in a vein near the skin’s surface and isn’t always serious, DVT is dangerous and requires immediate intervention.
If the clot in the leg breaks loose, it can travel to the lungs, get stuck and prevent blood flow. When this happens, a person may experience shortness of breath, sharp pain in the chest or coughed-up mucus. This is called pulmonary embolism (PE) and it causes more deaths in North America each year than breast cancer, AIDS and highway deaths. In fact, for elderly patients, PE was associated with a 39% one-year mortality rate.
Even when not life-threatening, DVT can lead to long-term problems, such as damage to the affected vein and pain or swelling. You should always go to the ER if you think you’re showing any DVT signs or syptoms.
DVT is caused by improper blood circulation and clotting. This may be a result of:
- Blood clotting disorder— Some inherited conditions make blood clotting more likely, especially when the patient has additional risk factors.
- Bed rest— A period of inactivity can make circulation difficult. This may include bed rest due to surgery, injury or paralysis. Long flights, car rides or even working a sedentary job can also contribute to blood clotting.
- Conditions that increase risk of blood clotting— This includes some forms of cancer, bowel diseases, obesity, heart failure and a family history of DVT.
Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis
It’s important to note that DVT can occur even if a person doesn’t experience any symptoms. However, some people experience the following symptoms in the affected leg:
- Pain (often a soreness beginning in the calf or thigh, sometimes increasing in intensity)
- Feeling of warmth
- Red appearance or a rash
How to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis
During a period of inactivity, there’s a few things you can do to decrease your risk of DVT:
- Exercise legs during long plane or road trip
- Consider compression stockings to improve blood flow
- If bed rest is advised, ask your doctor if anticoagulant medication (blood thinners) are recommended
- After surgery or an illness, frequently get out of bed as soon as it’s safe for you to do so
Canada Vein Clinics specializes in the correction and treatment of venous insufficiency. Take the first step to better vein health by booking a consultation today.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment
If you’re experiencing symptoms or signs of DVT, you should go to the ER immediately. Because DVT can occur without a person knowing, the first symptoms may be those associated with PE. In this case, since PE is life-threatening, you should seek immediate care.
Treatment for DVT decreases the risk of the clot enlarging or flowing to your lungs. Interventions can include:
- Intravenous blood thinner medication (such as heparin)
- Oral blood thinner medication (such as warfarin)
- Lifestyle changes (walks, frequently elevating legs, using compression stockings)