March is DVT Awareness Month

Tiffany Limtanakool

American Public Health Association 

In This Article

About DVT

There are two types of veins: deep and superficial. Deep veins are large and surrounded by muscle in the center of a limb. DVT occurs when a thrombus (blood clot) forms in the deep vein, most often in the leg, resulting in partially or completely blocked circulation.

Symptoms of DVT can include swelling, pain, discoloration and abnormally hot skin at the affected area. Unfortunately, nearly half of DVT episodes have minimal, if any, symptoms. These "silent" afflictions are particularly worrisome. Adding to the complication, some conditions such as muscle strain, skin inflection, phlebitis - inflammation of veins - have similar symptoms, making DVT harder to diagnose. The most accurate ways to diagnose DVT are through venous ultrasound, venography and Impedance plethysmography - detection via electrodes and blood pressure cuff placed on the patient's calf and thigh.

While DVT below the knee is unlikely to cause serious complications, clots above the knee can break off and travel up the bloodstream, resulting in a blocked blood vessel in the lung (pulmonary embolism). Other consequences are damaged blood vessels leading to blood pooling, swelling and pain in the leg, and in the most severe cases with large clots, death.

Certain individuals are more at risk for deep-vein thrombosis than others. Those with prior DVT, obesity, stroke, pregnancy, undergoing major surgery, over the age of 65 and those who are confined to long periods of immobility via travel or bed rest are more likely to be afflicted. According to the American Medical Association, approximately 2 million people suffer from DVT each year, more than the annual amount affected by heart attack or stroke.

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