March is national Deep-Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Awareness Month. This is a public health initiative aimed at raising awareness of this commonly occurring medical condition.
What is DVT?
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that develops within a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg
- Blood clots that develop in a vein are also known as venous thrombosis
- DVT usually occurs in a deep leg vein, a larger vein that runs through the muscles of the calf and the thigh and it can also occur in the pelvis or abdomen
- It can cause pain and swelling in the leg and may lead to complications such as pulmonary embolism
- DVT and pulmonary embolism together are known as venous thromboembolism (VTE)
- Each year, DVT affects around 1 person in every 1,000 in the UK (1)
What are the symptoms of DVT?
DVT can occur without any noticeable signs or symptoms. However, when they do present, the most common characteristics of DVT in the leg include:
- swelling, throbbing, or cramping pain
- red or discoloured skin
- abnormally hot skin
- swollen veins that are hard or sore when touched
If an individual experiences signs or symptoms of DVT, they should contact their doctor. (2)
Who is at risk of DVT?
Ultimately, anyone can develop DVT. However, there are many factors that can increase an individual’s risk of a blood clot forming. The more risk factors that an individual possesses, the greater their risk of DVT. Risk factors include:
- being over the age of 60
- long periods of immobility or reduced mobility
- recent injury or surgery
- being overweight or obese
- being on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
- undergoing cancer treatment or having a history of heart failure
- the presence of varicose veins
- personal or family history of DVT
Sometimes, DVT can occur with no apparent underlying risk factor.
If you have a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), your doctor will recommend starting treatment straight away. Treatment for DVT aims to stop the clot getting bigger and causing complications such as a pulmonary embolism, but it can also reduce your risk of getting another DVT. Usually, people won't need treatment to get rid of the existing clot, as the body should do this by itself.
People can usually stay at home to have DVT treatment but may need to be admitted to hospital if any complications or certain problems arise. (3)