Understanding DVT: Causes, Reasons for Concern and Common Treatments

Understanding Deep Vein ThrombosisSometimes, when a person reaches 50 years old, changes occur in how their blood moves through their body. Such changes may lead to the development of blood clots within the veins. Some of the reasons for such clots include:

  • An injury that causes damage to the veins
  • Obesity and being overweight, because the legs and pelvis carry more weight, affecting their veins
  • Family history
  • A catheter placed in a vein
  • Hormone therapy or using pills for birth control
  • Heavy smoking
  • Prolonged sitting, as during a plane or car ride; particularly risky with the presence of at least one other risk factor

This condition, which involves a blood clot forming within a vein deep in the body, is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. This usually occurs within the thigh or lower leg, but formations in other areas within the body are also possible.

Other names for this condition:

  • Thromboembolism
  • Post-thrombotic syndrome
  • Post-phlebitic syndrome

There are three major goals for treating deep vein thrombosis. These are:

  • To prevent the enlargement of the blood clot
  • To prevent a piece or the entire blood clot from breaking off and reaching your lungs (this is a medical emergency)
  • To lower the possibility of the formation of a new blood clot
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Common treatments for DVT include:

  • Anticoagulants. These are also called blood thinners because they reduce your blood’s clotting ability. Warfarin is a common anticoagulant in pill form, and heparin is administered using an IV tube.
  • Thrombin inhibitors. These interfere with the blood’s process of clotting and are usually used when the patient cannot take heparin.
  • Thrombolytics. Usually for life-threatening situations involving DVT; they can dissolve large clots.
  • Insertion of a vena cava filter. This filter — inserted in the vena cava, a large vein — catches blood clots on their way to the lungs.
  • Angioplasty and venous stenting. A catheter is a flexible tube inserted in a narrowed or blocked vein to open a small balloon. The stent is inserted to make sure the vein remains open after the balloon’s inflation.

Most doctors typically begin treating DVT by advising changes in the patient’s lifestyle and using blood thinners. Angioplasty and stenting, after years of success in the treatment of arteries, has now proven to give patients relief from the symptoms of DVT.

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