Symptoms and Risk Factors of Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism
Deep vein thrombosis, commonly abbreviated DVT, is a specific type of life-threatening blood clot (thrombus) that forms in a deep vein, most frequently in the legs of the patient. Deep veins are almost exclusively located beside major arteries and, therefore, carry the majority of the blood flow in the human body. Because of this, deep vein thrombosis leads to a potentially fatal condition in a part of the body that is particularly difficult to operate within.
DVT results in redness or discoloration of the skin, swelling, and severe aches in the affected area, which is most likely to be in the femoral region. The affected area is often warm due to the blood clot and is particularly tender to touch. In some cases, patients with this condition are observed to have enlarged superficial veins, which refer to the veins closer to the surface of the skin (not veins deep within the skin that are primarily affected by the disability). Many DVT patients also claim to experience unusual “exhaustion” in their legs, making it very difficult to accomplish regular, everyday tasks that include mobilization. In unfortunate cases, patients with this disability exhibit no noticeable symptoms and, therefore, are unaware that they have deep vein thrombosis until it is too late and pulmonary embolism takes place.
Pulmonary embolism is a severe disorder that tends to go hand-in-hand with deep vein thrombosis. Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot breaks open and results in large volumes of blood traveling to the lungs. When these two conditions occur simultaneously, they constitute a single condition known collectively as venous thromboembolism. This condition is exceedingly life-threatening and patients exhibit severe symptoms such as coughing up blood, intensely sharp chest pains, lightheadedness, a feeling of impending unconsciousness, and shortness of breath.
Because deep vein thrombosis is relatively difficult to diagnose, doctors often base their assessments on certain risk factors associated with the disability. Elderly individuals (those over 60) are at a much higher chance of contracting this specific blood clot, as are individuals who smoke tobacco, exhibit obesity, or often sit for extended periods of time. Moderate use of the legs for tasks such as walking or running play a large role in preventing one from contracting DVT and the subsequent pulmonary embolism associated with DVT. Additionally, individuals who have undergone intensive operations, such as knee replacement surgery, may be predisposed to severe blood clotting disorders like DVT.
Phlegmasia cerulea dolens is quite possibly the most severe form of DVT, and is caused by the near total blockage of blood flow in one of the extremities of the body. This is particularly pronounced in the femoral and iliac veins. Patients often experience severe swelling, blue coloration of the skin, intense aches, occasional redness, and the condition may lead to venous gangrene.
The final associated disorder that will be discussed is the aftermath of DVT, and is known as post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS). This is a long-term medical condition that causes consistent swelling and pain, a feeling of heaviness, decreased mobility, discoloration, itching, and potential ulcers in the affected region. PTS is known to drastically decrease the quality of life by limiting one’s ability to complete regular tasks and may last for the rest of the individual’s life.