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Have you ever experienced leg heaviness, leg pain, or swelling? At first glance, you may think you are experiencing varicose veins, but if a blood clot has occurred deep in your leg, you may be suffering from Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT. DVT is a very serious condition, because if the blood clot becomes dislodged, it could travel to your lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which can be immediately lethal. The key to preventing this is early detection and treatment.

Causes

There are several causes for DVT. Most often, the blood clot, also called a thrombus, forms in the legs. It could be a result of an accident, but a common cause for it is immobility. Whether confined to a hospital bed or just general inactivity, keeping your legs still for a long period of time causes these blood clots to form. There are also some medical conditions that affect clotting that could contribute to the onset of DVT, including cancer. Pregnancy is another risk factor; the veins become stretched and crushed as the fetus grows, pushing on the boundaries of the uterus.

Detection

Unlike blood clots that form in the arteries, which could lead to heart attacks or stroke, DVT blood clots form in the veins. Arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of your body while veins carry the blood back to the heart. A vein specialist is necessary to determine where exactly the clot lies in your bloodstream. Some patients may have genetic markers that can actually tip off a vein specialist that the patient is at risk for DVT. The most common symptoms are pain and swelling in the legs. There are a number of issues that could be related to these symptoms, so it is important to consult with a vascular center to determine the cause of the pain. Tests for DVT are painless and readily available to patients.

Treatment

For patients already in a hospital setting that are under the threat of DVT forming, they may be given prophylaxis as a means of prevention. Other treatments focus on preventing the clot from growing or breaking off and travelling to a vital organ. Blood thinners, also called anticoagulants, may be used to help reduce the risk of the blood clot breaking away. There are several different anticoagulants available that will keep the clot from growing or breaking off. They can also prevent new clots from forming. However, anticoagulants cannot dissolve an existing clot.