Deep vein thrombosis symptoms: Six early stage signs in your leg

Doctor explains symptoms of deep vein thrombosis

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Deep vein thrombosis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a blood clot forms deep inside the body. The condition typically forms in your legs, but can also develop in other areas of the body. Either way, it’s a serious condition and can easily turn into a medical emergency – so what signs should you be looking out for?

Deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT, is a blood clot in one of your deep veins in either the legs, pelvis, arms, or abdomen.

If the blood clot is large and mostly or totally blocks your vein, you may have the following symptoms in your legs:

  • throbbing or cramping pain in one leg (rarely both legs), usually in the calf or thigh
  • swelling in one leg (rarely both legs)
  • warm skin around the painful area
  • red or darkened skin around the painful area
  • swollen veins that are hard or sore when you touch them
  • pain and tenderness, usually in your calf, or your inner thigh

You need to see your GP urgently if you are experiencing any of the scary symptoms of DVT.

It’s important to note that these symptoms also happen in your arm or tummy if that’s where the blood clot is.

You’ll need treatment to stop the blood clot as if it progresses and moves it could be deadly.

Your GP will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you for DVT.

Then, you’ll probably need a blood test and a leg vein ultrasound.

If you are diagnosed with DVT, your doctor may recommend anticoagulants, heparin or warfarin to stop the condition from getting worse and reduce your risk of a pulmonary embolism.

Not everyone will experience symptoms with deep vein thrombosis.

In fact, symptoms only occur in around half of those with the condition – and DVT is usually picked up when it has advanced to become a pulmonary embolism.

This happens when a clot travels to the lung from the place it formed and gets stuck.

A pulmonary embolism is an emergency, so it’s important to prevent DVT in the first place to reduce your risk of ending up with this dangerous condition.

How to avoid deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis isn’t always avoidable but it is preventable and treatable if discovered early.

The problem can affect anyone, but people who are over 60, overweight, smoke, take the contraceptive pill or HRT, have cancer or heart failure, have varicose veins or have had DVT before are more likely to get DVT than anyone else.

Sometimes DVT can happen for no obvious reason or is caused by a temporary situation such as staying in hospital, dehydration, going on a long plane, car or train journey, or pregnancy.

To avoid deep vein thrombosis, the NHS recommends the following:

  • stay a healthy weight
  • stay active – taking regular walks can help
  • drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration – DVT is more likely if you’re dehydrated
  • do not sit still for long periods of time – get up and move around every hour or so
  • do not cross your legs while you’re sitting, it can restrict blood flow
  • do not smoke – get support to stop smoking
  • do not drink lots of alcohol
  • if you’re travelling for three hours or more by plane, train or car, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol

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