Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
A DVT is a blood clot which forms in a vein, usually in the leg. If someone has a DVT, part of the blood clot could break off and travel in the bloodstream. It keeps traveling until it gets stuck somewhere, almost always in the lung. This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). This is extremely serious and, if not treated, can be fatal.
In some cases of DVT there may not be any typical symptoms.
Typical symptoms usually include:
- pain in one leg which is worse when your leg is pressed.
- your leg becoming warm and red
- swelling in your leg
- breathlessness and chest pain (may indicate pulmonary embolism)
Ultrasound can be used to assess the veins in your leg and determine whether you have a DVT. These tests are reliable but if there is any doubt with your scan then it may be suggested to have a repeat ultrasound scan after a seven days. The usual treatment for DVT is anticoagulant medicine (heparin or warfarin) to break down the blood clot.
Anyone can get a DVT, but you are more at risk if you:
- or anyone in your family has had a DVT before
- have had an operation recently ( within last 3 months)
- are not able to move about as much as usual
- have been unable to move around on a long journey by car, plane or train ( more than four hours continuous travelling)
- have a medical condition that causes your blood to clot more easily (thrombo-philia)
- are on the combined oral contraceptive (the pill) or HRT
- are pregnant or have had a baby in the past 6 weeks
- have cancer
- have some types of heart disease or blood disorders
- are over weight
To reduce the risk of a DVT you can:
- exercise regularly
- maintain a healthy weight
If you are travelling on a long journey of over 4 hours, it is recommended to move around as much as possible before, during and after the journey, leg exercise during the flight, drinking water and wearing flight socks to help the blood circulate.
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