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Deep Vein Thrombosis - Causes, Prevention, Symptoms and Treatments

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Deep Vein Thrombosis - Causes, Prevention, Symptoms and Treatments

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Deep vein thrombosis is a condition that refers to blood clots forming in the deep veins of the lower extremities. Read the article to learn more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At October 23, 2013
Reviewed AtMay 9, 2024

What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition involving blood clot formation in the deep veins, it usually occurs in the legs, or sometimes it can be seen in the arms also. Deep vein thrombosis is a severe condition as the blood clot has the potential to block the brain supply to other internal organs, which leads to organ failure or strokes. Pulmonary embolism is a very serious complication caused by deep vein thrombosis; this is a condition in which blood clots in the deep veins of the legs cause leg swelling, pain, and redness. This clot can also break off, travel up the veins, and lodge in the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. Togetherly it is known as venous thromboembolism.

What Are the Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis is caused by clot formation in the deep veins.

Following are the causes of deep vein thrombosis -

  1. Genetic inheritance of the disorder causes excessive blood clot formation.

  2. Injury to the small blood vein leads to clot formation.

  3. During surgery, damage to the vein leads to clot formation.

  4. Less physical activities and prolonged sitting or bed rest increase the chances of the development of blood clots.

  5. Pregnancy.

  6. History of deep vein thrombosis in the family.

  7. Overweight.

  8. Tobacco smoking or chewing habits.

  9. Pre-existing varicose veins.

  10. Administration of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.

  11. History of autoimmune disorder.

  12. Cancer can be a cause of deep vein thrombosis due indication of chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer.

  13. Heart attack increases the risk of the development of blood clots and pulmonary embolism.

  14. An individual with inflammatory bowel disease is more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis.

  15. People over 40 years have a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.

  16. Some syndromes like hypercoagulable states and peculiar vein anatomy can predispose a person to deep vein thrombosis.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis has been seen in the deep veins of the lower extremities. Around 25 % to 30 % of individuals are asymptomatic, but different signs and symptoms are associated with deep vein thrombosis.

  1. Redness over the affected leg.

  2. Swelling is present over the affected area.

  3. Pain and tenderness are present.

  4. Rise in temperature over the affected leg.

  5. Swollen veins.

  6. Change the color of the leg to purple or blue.

  7. Abdominal pain.

What Is the Difference Between Superficial Thrombophlebitis and Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis belong to the same classification of thrombophlebitis. Thrombophlebitis refers to clot formation and inflammation.

In superficial thrombophlebitis, clot formation is present in the superficial vein, just beneath the skin surface, and it is not a very serious condition. It can subside in five to six weeks with supportive treatment. No surgical treatment is required.

In deep vein thrombosis, the clot is formed in the deep veins of the lower extremities due to several causes. Deep vein thrombosis can lead to severe complications like pulmonary emboli, strokes, ischemia to certain internal organs, and many more life-threatening conditions. It can be treated by medical and surgical intervention.

How to Diagnose Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis is diagnosed by performing the following investigations.

  1. Recording the patient's medical and family history.

  2. Conducting a physical examination by evaluating pulse, temperature, blood flow, and blood pressure.

  3. Inspecting the site of inflammation.

  4. Doppler Ultrasound - In doppler ultrasound investigation, sound waves are used to determine the blood flow and pressure.

  5. Duplex Ultrasound - This investigation combines doppler ultrasound and ultrasound sonography.

  6. Venography - It is a type of X-ray that captures the image of the blood flow.

  7. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is advised to determine the conditions of clots and blood flow.

  8. CT (computerized tomography) scan - It is done to check the blood flow and venous involvement. CT (computerized tomography) chest scan is done to check clots in the lungs.

MR Angiography (magnetic resonance angiography) - In this investigation, doctors inject a dye into the vein, capture a detailed picture through the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine, and study the blockage.

What Are the Treatment Modalities for Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis is a curable condition, but if it is not diagnosed early, it can lead to life-threatening situations.

Several objectives are taken care of while planning the treatment for deep vein thrombosis-

  1. Prevent blood clot formation.

  2. Stop the clot from getting bigger.

  3. Avoid the breaking of the clot so that it may not be able to travel to the lungs.

  4. Prevention of long-term complications.

  • Surgical Treatment -

Iliofemoral deep vein thrombosis needs to be treated to prevent a pulmonary embolism. We treat deep vein thrombosis by first placing an inferior vena cava filter (IVC) in the inferior vena cava. This is a filter, like a sieve, that is positioned in the infrarenal inferior vena cava filter (IVC) to catch any free floating clots from traveling up and blocking the pulmonary veins. After this, a needle puncture is made in the popliteal vein (the deep vein behind the knee), and a special catheter is used to suck out clots from the deep veins. The next step is to place a perfusion catheter in the thrombosed venous segment, and an infusion of a thrombolytic agent (clot busting-medicine) like tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), or urokinase is started. Check venograms every 12 hours to monitor clot resolution and reposition the perfusion catheter. Typically a fresh thrombus would be lysed within 24 hours of thrombolysis.

  • Medical Treatment -

Blood thinning medicine like Heparin can be given intravenously to help recanalize the occluded veins; this can be done in patients who are poor candidates for thrombolysis.

Blood thinners are also known as anticoagulants; these may not dissolve the

spot-formed blood clot but may help prevent blood clots formation.

  • Supportive Treatment -

Compression stockings are advised to wear over the legs to eliminate swelling. These compression stockings have elastic in them for pressure application to the affected area. Even after surgery, doctors advise wearing the stocking.

What Are the Ways to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis is a preventable condition. Basic lifestyle moderation will help to prevent the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.

  • Regular exercise.

  • Walking.

  • Preventing prolonged immobilization, like sitting for a long duration for a long-haul flight, would prevent deep vein thrombosis.

  • Quit smoking.

  • Weight management.

  • Leading an active and healthy lifestyle with good eating habits.

  • Minor physical activity should be performed during pregnancy, the post-surgical procedure, or on bed rest after being diagnosed with any disease.

Conclusion -

Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition that is characterized by blood clot formation in the legs. It is a manageable condition with given treatment modalities and prevented by obtaining a healthy and active lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can Deep Vein Thrombosis Be Identified With Warning Signs?

Yes, deep vein thrombosis can be identified with the help of certain signs and symptoms. The several warning signs of deep vein thrombosis are:
- Swelling in the affected leg.
- Pain in the legs. The pain can start in the calf muscles.
- A warm feeling in the affected leg.
- Redness or discoloration in the legs.


What Does a DVT in the Leg Feel Like?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that occurs when a blood clot develops in the deep veins of your body. This condition can cause throbbing pain in the legs. Some patients also feel numbness in the legs.


How Is DVT Treated?

The treatment for DVT involves the following:
- Anticoagulants are helpful in treating the deep vein thrombosis condition.
- For complicated cases, thrombolytics can be used.
- Compression stockings.
- Filters.


How Can I Tell if I Have a Blood Clot in My Leg?

A blood clot in the leg can produce symptoms in the legs, arms, heart, and lungs. The following changes can be seen in the blood clots of the legs:
- Swelling.
- Alteration in skin color.
- Sweating if the heart is involved.
- Dizziness and breathing problems if the lung is involved.


Does a Blood Clot in the Leg Hurt Constantly?

The effects of blood clots can be constantly felt. It does not hurt for a prolonged period if the treatment measures are taken. The pain will be felt more when the patient is walking or standing for a longer duration. A certain degree of cramps and tight feeling will be felt. This might be accompanied by numbness.


Can You Reverse Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Yes, it is possible to reverse deep vein thrombosis. It usually resolves within a few weeks or months. The problem does not lie in resolving the condition but with the recurrence of this condition.


Can Deep Vein Thrombosis Go Away on Its Own?

Yes, deep vein thrombosis can go away on its own. In some patients, the thrombosis can dissolve by itself. The swelling caused by DVT will also subside gradually. To avoid unnecessary complications caused by DVT, it is necessary to contact your doctor immediately.


Are Bananas Good for Blood Clots?

A blood clot occurs due to the hardening of the arteries and narrowing. The potassium components present in the banana will help in increasing the blood flow. The risk for further blood clots can also be reduced with the help of bananas.


What Foods to Avoid if You Have Blood Clots?

You should restrict the intake of Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, chard, collard, and mustard greens that you eat. Cranberry juice, green tea, and alcohol should also be avoided to the maximum.


What Is the Best Treatment for Deep Vein Thrombosis?

The condition of deep vein thrombosis can be treated with the following medications.
- Enoxaparin.
- Fondaparinux.
- Warfarin.
- Dabigatran.
- Apixaban.


What Can Happen if a DVT Is Left Untreated?

If DVT is not treated at an earlier stage, then it might result in some other severe complications like pulmonary embolism. It is necessary to treat this condition as soon as possible. Contact your doctor immediately.


What Is the Most Serious Complication of Deep Vein Thrombosis?

The most serious complication of deep vein thrombosis is pulmonary embolism. This happens when the clot breaks down suddenly and travels through the blood through the lungs. The smaller clots can be treated easily.


How Do You Prevent DVT Naturally?

DVT can be prevented naturally by making a few lifestyle changes. They are:
- Avoid smoking habits.
- It is necessary to reduce the blood pressure levels. The sugar and salt intake should be managed.
- You should not sit in the same place for a long period of time.
- You should indulge in activities like walking, jogging, and swimming.
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Dr. Joshi Saurabh Sudhakar
Dr. Joshi Saurabh Sudhakar



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