Blood Clots and Deep Vein Thrombosis
Thrombosis refers to the forming of a blood clot and deep vein thrombosis refers to a clot that forms deep in side of the body within a vein generally in the legs or thigh. Recall that veins return blood to the heart and carry deoxygenated blood.
A deep vein thrombosis can block blood flow in a vein and cause severe pain and inflammation. At times the blood clot can become dislodged or break off and travel throughout the bloodstream. When the blood clot is free, this is called an embolism. Once the clot has embolized, it can get caught somewhere else in the vascular system for example, in the lungs, heart, brain or somewhere else causing serious damage and possibly death. You increase the probability of forming a clot if you are obese, have fractures in the pelvis region or legs, had recent surgery, taking birth control pills, cigarette smoking, have had heart failure, a history of blood clotting problems in your family or have polycythemia (thick blood due to too many blood cells).
Deep vein thrombosis symptoms are generally easy to diagnose. You should see a change in skin color to a redness in the leg affected, the leg should feel warm to you inside and should feel warm to the touch on the skin, you should feel pain and tenderness in the leg affected. Swelling (edema) should be present as some point.
You should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible to have a physical exam done as well as blood tests. There are a number of tests that can be done and your doctor will determine which ones are needed for your specific case. There are 4 tests that can be administered that include: D-dimer blood test, ultrasound, blood flow measurement in the leg and X-rays of the affected leg (venography).
To resolve your deep vein thrombosis, your doctor will give you some form of anticoagulant (blood thinner). Basically, what that does is to keep clots from forming at this point and prevent older ones from increasing in size. Note: these drugs do not dissolve clots, so there is no fear of dislodging other clots that may be in your system. The blood thinner most prescribed first is heparin. Heparin is actually found in your body naturally. Initially, the heparin will be administered in the hospital intravenously. Other forms of heparin can be given by injection and this you can do at home. Often times a second blood thinner is administered. This second thinner is called warfarin (Coumadin). Warfarin can be taken orally and will replace heparin within a few days. Warfarin is sensitive to foods you eat so you will be placed on a strict diet. You shouldn’t eat any soy or soy products as they contain vitamin K.
Make sure to take warfarin exactly as prescribed. It is important that you don’t miss a dose but if you do you need to contact your doctor immediately. You will be required to have blood tests done on a regular basis to make sure the dose you are taking is right for you to keep your deep vein thrombosis under control.
From this point on, you will have to wear special stockings that have a certain compression level on your leg and probably a good idea to wear the same socks on both legs. The compression socks will help improve blood flow through the veins in your legs and decrease the risk deep vein thrombosis.