Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Symptoms, Causes & Prevention

Medically Reviewed by: Clint McCullough, ATC, OTC

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Deep vein thrombosis, often referred to as “DVT” is a blood clot that forms in one or several of the deep veins in your body, typically in the lower extremities. Deep vein thrombosis can cause pain and swelling in the legs, but can also occur without any symptoms. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) only about 50% of people who suffer from DVT are symptomatic. Deep vein thrombosis can be serious medical concern because the blood clot in your veins can break loose and travel to your lungs causing a pulmonary embolism (PE).

Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms

It is important to know the warning signs of DVT, as it is a common condition.  While some people aren’t always symptomatic, some common symptoms include:

  • Pain and swelling in the affected leg
  • Feeling of a constant cramp or soreness, starting in the calf muscle and slowly moving up the leg.
  • Skin can take on a red discoloration
  • Increased warmth of the extremity can be common.

It is important to note that these symptoms can be common after lower extremity surgery without the presence of a DVT.

If you are concerned you have a blood clot, seek medical attention immediately. The chances of a DVT in an otherwise healthy person is very low (1%), but if there is a concern getting tested is never a bad idea.

DVT can be diagnosed with a simple Deep Vein Thrombosis test that is a doppler ultrasound. The test is fast, inexpensive, and results are quickly available.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Causes & Risk Factors

The cause of a blood clot is anything that prevents the blood from circulating and clotting normally. There are many factors that can increase likelihood of developing a blood clot, and some Deep Vein Thrombosis risk factors include:

  • Genetic or inherent blood clotting disorder – Family history of blood clots or other conditions that make your blood clot more easily.
  • Inactivity, prolonged bed rest, or paralysis – When you are sedentary for long periods of time or do not move your legs, blood can pool and form a blood clot in your legs. When your muscles are moving and contracting, this helps circulate the blood. Even staying active with low intensity activity can help.
  • Recent surgery or traumatic injury – After surgery or an injury, the inflammatory response is initiated as part of the injury response process and the injury site or surgical site is flushed with blood and nutrients to help heal the area. If we are immobilized to decrease pain or to stabilize an injury, we increase the risk of developing a blood clot. After surgery, it’s common to be put on prophylactic blood thinning medication to help prevent a DVT.
  • Pregnancy – Increased pressure in veins of the pelvis and legs of women. Clotting risks can continue for up to 6 weeks following a pregnancy.
  • Smoking – Let’s be honest, it’s not good for ANYTHING! Quit now!
  • Age – A DVT can occur at any age, but those over 60 years old are at higher risk.

If you have questions or concerns on your risks of developing a DVT, please consult with your primary care physician.

Prevention of DVT

It’s possible to develop a blood clot without any risk factors, surgery, or injury, however,  incorporating these activities into your everyday routine can help!

  • Avoid inactivity and sitting still – After a common procedure like knee replacement, it is important get moving as soon as possible. Even if you are in bed, simple exercises like ankle pumps can help. Avoid crossing your legs as this may restrict blood flow.
  • Walk – Walking is a great way to keep the blood moving – do it as much as possible! If you are traveling long distances in a car, stop and get out every hour to walk around.
  • Make positive lifestyle changes – Lose weight and quit smoking.
  • Diet and Exercise – Regular exercise lowers your risk of developing a DVT.

Preventing DVT After Surgery

If you just had surgery, its normal for your knee and lower leg to be sore and to have increased swelling (edema). It’s part of the injury response process. You will likely be placed on a prophylactic blood thinner, like Aspirin, after surgery. Here are a few other tips than can help prevent a DVT after surgery:

Elevate your leg

Keeping your leg elevated above the level of your heart lowers the pressure in local blood vessels and helps control bleeding. It increases drainage of swelling through lymph vessels, and uses gravity to facilitate circulation back to the heart.

Using the Edema Reduction Leg Elevator (ERLE) from MyComfortMD comfortably elevates the lower extremities above the level of the heart and helps reduce swelling.

  • Our Deluxe version includes memory foam and a ultra-soft washable cover.
  • Comfortable foam is stable which is perfect for prolonged or overnight use.
  • Pillows and blankets are inconsistent and unreliable for maintaining a therapeutic elevation height

Simultaneous Leg Elevation

Elevating both legs at the same time can reduce swelling of both legs and improve blood circulation, which helps prevent a bilateral DVT.  Positioning both of your legs above your heart at the proper angle is important for effective edema reduction.

Using the MyComfortMD ERLE Twin is a great solution for double leg elevation after surgery and for preventing and treating DVT.

  • The Deluxe version includes ultra comfortable memory foam and a silky, soft washable cover.
  • Simultaneous bilateral lower extremity elevation is a great habit that will help alleviate symptoms of numerous lower extremity conditions.
  • Improve blood circulation and reduce edema.

Using the Edema Reduction Leg Elevator (ERLE) from MyComfortMD comfortably elevates the lower extremities above the level of the heart and helps reduce swelling.

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