Blood Clots: Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of DVT usually occur in one leg. Pain, warmth, and swelling are just some of the symptoms. Other symptoms include tenderness, discomfort, changes in skin color (e.g. bluish skin discoloration or redness), and joint pain.

    The pain often is below the knee--often in the calf--and may increase during standing or walking. However, many people with DVT may not show symptoms. If pulmonary embolism occurs, symptoms include shortness of breath and sharp chest pain that is worse with taking a deep breath.

  • Risk Factors

    Lack of exercise or movement may predispose people to DVT. People who do not move for prolonged periods of time, such as during a long plane flight or a cross-country drive, are at risk for DVT. It is important to change positions often; stand up and walk around at least once every one to two hours. You can also flex your feet and leg muscles while sitting.

    Most often, DVT forms when a person is hospitalized and at bedrest, such as after a hip operation or for another major illness or surgery. Ten percent to thirty percent of medical and surgical intensive care unit patients have DVT within the first week of admission. As a result, patients who are subject to bed rest should follow an exercise routine that uses active and passive motion of the arms and legs.

    If you cannot exercise your legs, your doctor may recommend special treatments to lower the risk of DVT, such as compression stockings or medications.

    A traumatic injury or surgery--especially to the legs or hips--may predispose people to DVT. This risk can occur as a result of trauma to the blood vessels, or as a result of the long period of immobilization required after a major surgery or an injury such as a fracture.

    Pregnancy and certain hormonal medications may predispose women to DVT. During pregnancy and for three months following childbirth, women are at increased risk for DVT. Medications such as estrogen and birth control pills may cause women to be at increased risk of DVT, especially in women who are also smokers.

    Obesity may predispose people to DVT Figure 02

    Click to enlarge: BMI calculator

    Figure 02. BMI calculator

    People who are obese may have other conditions that increase the risk of DVT. In addition, a large number of obese people are less active, which may also increase the risk of blood clots.

    Certain inherited conditions may predispose people to DVT. In order for blood clots to form and dissolve, certain factors in the blood are necessary. Some inherited conditions cause defects in these factors; individuals with these defects are more likely to form blood clots. The most common defect is resistance to a protein called activated protein C (factor V Leiden); people with this defect are more likely to form a DVT.

    People with certain cancers such as lung or breast cancer may be at increased risk for developing DVT.

    Elderly people may be predisposed to DVT. As the condition of the heart and veins changes with age, DVT becomes more common. The blood vessels become thicker, stiffer, and less elastic. Circulation may slow and blood clots may result.

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