Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside of your body. These clots usually form in your calves or thighs but can also develop in your pelvis and arm. They can stay in place or move through your veins and arteries, often leading to serious complications in both cases. If found early, there are steps you can take to treat it before complications occur. Here are five key facts about this condition:

DVT is the leading cause of pulmonary embolisms.

Pulmonary embolisms are a serious complication of DVT. “This condition occurs when blood clots break free, travel through your bloodstream and block the flow of blood into your lungs,” says Avni Jain, MD, a family medicine doctor with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group. “If the clot stays in place and continues to grow, it can cause pain or severe damage to your veins.” Regardless of where the clot is located, Dr. Jain recommends you seek immediate medical attention from a primary care or emergency care doctor if you start to experience symptoms.

Pain and swelling are the most common symptoms of DVT.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Redness and warmth in your limbs
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Bloody cough
  • Rapid pulse

Dr. Jain also points out that you may not feel any symptoms at all, which can delay early treatment. 

The risk factors for DVT vary greatly.

DVT can happen to anyone but there are certain risk factors to be aware of.

  • Age – Growing older can increase your risk.
  • Family history – You are most likely to get DVT if you have a relative with the condition.
  • Medical conditions – Examples of conditions that increase your risk include blood disorders, pregnancy, certain cancers, inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.
  • Prolonged inactivity – Sitting for long periods of time in a car or on a flight can restrict your blood flow and increase the likelihood of blood clots.
  • Medical procedures – Your risk is highest two to ten days after a medical procedure. “If you have surgery, your doctor will take special precautions to prevent blood clots from occurring as you heal,” Dr. Jain says.

Staying active is the best way you can prevent DVT.

If you are sitting still for a long time, focus on keeping your body in motion by standing up to stretch or by walking around. Raising and lowering your heels while keeping your toes on the floor can also help keep the blood flowing in your calves. Avoid crossing your legs, which can reduce your blood flow. Other ways to prevent DVT is to wear loose fitting clothing or compression socks. For long-term DVT prevention, remember to exercise.

Imaging tests can help diagnose DVT.

“Ultrasounds are the most common diagnostic test used for diagnosing DVT. The scanner creates pictures of the blood flowing through your arteries and veins to help your doctor make a diagnosis,” Dr. Jain says. “Depending on the clot, treatment options can include taking blood thinners or other medications to dissolve clots.” Sometimes, your doctor may recommend surgery to filter clots before they cause pulmonary embolisms. Always talk with your primary care doctor if you have any concerns about DVT. 

Need help finding a doctor? Adventist Medical Group offers Primary and Specialty Care at over 10 locations.