Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Overview and More

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that partially or completely blocks a large vein (usually in the lower leg or thigh, such as the popliteal vein), although it can occur in other parts of the body as well .

DVT prevents deoxygenated blood from returning to the heart. As a result, blood circulation in the leg is blocked, causing pain and swelling.

If this blood clot dislodges, it becomes an embolus and can travel through the heart and lungs, blocking blood flow there. A blood clot that travels to the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). PD can deprive tissues of blood and damage them. DVT is a very serious disease that can be fatal.

Blood clots in the thighs are more likely to dislodge and cause PE than blood clots in the lower leg, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute .

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 900,000 Americans suffer from deep vein thrombosis, or PE, each year, and as a result, 60,000 to 100,000 die .

It is important to note that DVT is different from a blood clot (also known as superficial thrombophlebitis), which forms in the veins just under the skin. Superficial thrombophlebitis usually does not spread to the lungs and can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, bed rest, and warm compresses. DVT is also different from blood clots, which form in the arteries and can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Common causes and risk factors for blood clots

Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis

Common symptoms of DVT are pain and tenderness in the affected area and redness or discoloration of the skin. If the DVT is interrupted and becomes PE, you may experience chest pain, increased heart rate, and shortness of breath. Vomiting, coughing up blood, and fainting are also signs of PD.

DVT and PE are serious, so you should seek immediate help if you have any of these signs or symptoms.


One of the main causes of DVT is immobility and prolonged sitting . Whether you're recovering from surgery or sitting on a long flight, inactivity slows down blood flow and can prevent platelets and plasma from forming in your body. Mix blood and proper circulation.

A serious injury or leg surgery can also cause DVT .

Adults over the age of 60 are at the highest risk of developing DVT, but pregnant women taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy are also at risk for blood clotting. This is due to elevated levels of estrogen, which can make the blood clot easily .


If you have DVT, it is important to get a diagnosis right away before it develops into a pulmonary embolism. Once PD blocks an artery in your lung, all blood flow slows or stops completely, which can cause sudden death.

Your doctor will most likely perform a compression ultrasound, but other tests such as a venogram, CT scan, or D-dimer test may also be used to diagnose DVT. With a compression ultrasound, your doctor can see a blood clot and a blockage in the blood flow in a vein.

Get drug information

Watch out

If your doctor confirms the diagnosis of DVT, anticoagulants (blood thinners) are usually the first line of treatment. Blood thinners do not break down existing clots, but they prevent further clotting in the veins and reduce the likelihood of PE. There are injectable and tablet forms of blood thinners.

If you develop PD and have a large clot, you may be given chrombolytic therapy (drugs that break down clots). These drugs are given intravenously or through a catheter that is inserted directly into the clot. Blood clot busters are commonly used in an emergency due to the risk of heavy bleeding.

Recommendations for DVT and PE

Treatment guidelines have been updated to conditionally recommend that some people with DVT or PE at low risk of complications should be treated at home rather than in a hospital .

Deep Vein Thrombosis Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide to your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

After completing short-term treatment, your doctor may prescribe another blood thinner. Anticoagulant therapy usually lasts three months, but in some cases it can be vague, especially if you've had PD. Your doctor will weigh your case against the risks and benefits of making a clinical decision.

In 2020, the American Society of Hematology (ASH) released updated guidelines for the treatment of DVT and PE. Updates to these evidence-based treatment recommendations to watch out for include :

  • People with PD and cardiac instability are advised to take medications to break up blood clots (thrombolytic therapy) followed by anticoagulant therapy, not just anticoagulants.
  • Patients with unprovoked recurrent DVT or PE are advised to continue anticoagulant therapy indefinitely rather than stopping anticoagulant therapy after initial treatment.


It is important for people who are at risk for DVT or who have had DVT to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Quitting smoking, achieving a healthy weight, and exercising regularly are helpful prevention strategies.

You should avoid sitting, stretching, and moving for a long time during the day. Compression socks especially useful on long flights, as they promote blood circulation and help the veins in the legs to return deoxygenated blood to the heart.

If you are taking birth control or hormone replacement therapy, you can talk to your doctor about changing your treatment plan to prevent future blood clots. People with hypertension, heart disease, or heart failure are also at high risk for DVT, so be sure to talk with your doctor about coming up with a treatment plan that reduces your risk and prevents blood clots.

Get the word of drug information

Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition that needs to be treated right away. It usually takes three to six months for a clot to completely dissolve, but with treatment you can prevent it from getting bigger and dislodging.

If you experience symptoms of pulmonary embolism, seek immediate help. While the symptoms of DVT can be alarming, knowing them can help save your life or the life of someone you know.

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