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Deep Vein Thrombosis and Its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

The result of blood clotting, usually in the veins of the legs.


Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis

Blood flow through the veins is a more leisurely affair than the urgent rush of blood through arteries. This increases the risk of blood clotting – a risk that is increased by any factors that further reduce blood flow such as bed rest, especially after a stroke or heart attack, immobility as on long flights and. most commonly, immobility during operations. There are also tiny risks from taking oestrogen in the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy HRT).

The veins in the legs, deep within the calves and thighs, are the ones most at risk of thrombosis. A further risk is that a small clot in the call’ later extends up the leg and even into the major veins within the abdomen. The greatest worry from a deep vein thrombosis is that a portion ol the blood clot may fly off and lodge in the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis

There may be no symptoms at all but often the affected limb suddenly swells up and feels painful. It is usually the call that swells but it can be the whole leg. Hie calf looks red and is extremely tender to pressure. Without tests it is frequently impossible to tell whether the cause of a red swollen calf is infection or thrombosis. One test is an ultrasound scan of the veins in the leg, which is good at detecting large clots. The other test is a venogram. This involves injecting a dye into a vein in the foot in order to reveal on X-ray the whole system of veins in the limb. This can detect much smaller clots.

Treatment of Deep Vein Thrombosis

the aim is to prevent further clot formation, which is done by taking warfarin, a drug that reduces the ‘clottability’ of the blood. A course of 8-12 weeks is usual. If there is a major blood clot extending into the abdomen, surgery may be a possibility to remove it, but this is a dangerous procedure. Small clots are left alone; the body gradually dissolves them.

Deep vein thrombosis is such a hazard of surgery that great effort has gone into finding ways of preventing it. One method is to inject heparin at and around the time of surgery. This drug reduces the cuttability of the blood but not so much that it increases bleeding during surgery. Another technique is for the patient to wear compression stockings during the operation; these increase the rate of blood flow and so reduce the

Commonly Asked Questions

How does phlebitis differ from deep vein thrombosis?

Phlebitis is a blood clot within a surface vein, causing a tender, firm, inflamed area. This is not dangerous and responds to anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

How big a risk is deep vein thrombosis?

It is extremely common after a stroke or heart attack, abdominal surgery or hip replacement. The associated pulmonary embolus is one of the major complications after these types of surgery.

Can deep vein thrombosis recur?

Having one increases the chances of having another, so always inform a surgeon if yon have had a thrombosis. You should also avoid anything which increases the risk such as the contraceptive pill and prolonged bed rest. On long journeys, especially long flights, try to walk around regularly or move your legs about.

Complementary Treatment Deep Vein Thrombosis

If you suspect a deep vein thrombosis, you should seek a conventional medical opinion immediately. Yoga and tai chi/chi kung arc gentle forms of exercise which can be beneficial after recovery. Diet is also important in preventing recurrence. A naturopath or nutritional therapist could help you switch to a balanced diet, containing plenty of whole foods. Tat plenty of fish, not just white fish, and lake fish oil supplements. Also, supplement your vitamin K intake, and take garlic supplements.

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