DVT danger: Blood clots that can travel through the veins

While arteries carry blood away from the heart and circulate blood throughout the body, your veins carry blood back to the heart, which then pumps it out to the rest of the body.

The network of veins consist of superficial veins, such as the ones you can see just beneath the surface of your skin, and deep veins, which are deep within your body, particularly your legs. If a blood clot (thrombus) forms in a deep vein, there is the danger that it may break loose and work its way up the veins to the heart, brain or lungs. Deep vein thrombosis, also called DVT, is often a cause of sudden death in pulmonary embolism (when blood flow to the lungs is blocked).

DVT can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • Inactivity (due to paralysis, bed rest or even plane travel)
  • Surgery
  • Injury (especially to a leg)
  • Cancer
  • Clotting disorders

You may also be more at risk for the condition if you smoke, take birth control pills, or have an autoimmune disorder such as lupus.

Symptoms and diagnosis of DVT

For some people, pulmonary embolism is the first warning sign of DVT. For others, there may be visible signs, such as:

  • Pain or swelling in the affected area (usually a leg)
  • Redness or warmth in the area
  • Tenderness, achy-ness when area is touched

Your doctor may prescribe certain blood tests and an ultrasound to determine the presence of deep vein thrombosis. Treatment often consists of medication to dissolve the clots and use of compression therapy to prevent clots from forming. In some cases, surgery may be recommended.

If you have concerns about blood circulation and deep vein thrombosis, be sure to talk to your doctor.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.