Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition in which blood clots form in one of your body’s major veins. It’s preventable and treatable, but in some cases, serious complications can arise from it.
Read on to learn more about complications from DVT and how you can prevent them.
When caught early, DVT can usually be treated with blood thinners and lifestyle changes. In some cases, serious complications can arise.
A pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a blood clot in a deep vein travels to the lungs. PE can cause permanent damage to the lungs and other organs because the blood flow is being restricted. Large or multiple clots can be fatal.
In many cases there are no symptoms. When there are symptoms, they may include:
- shortness of breath (the most common symptom of PE)
- clammy or bluish skin
- chest pain that may extend into your arm, jaw, neck, and shoulder
- irregular heartbeat
- rapid breathing
- rapid heartbeat
- spitting or coughing up blood
- weak pulse
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
Post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS), also known as post-phlebitic syndrome, is a long-term complication of DVT. It develops when a blood clot damages the valves in your veins and causes chronic pain, swelling, and discomfort that can greatly interfere with daily life.
Symptoms may appear six months to two years after a blood clot develops, and they could last for the rest of your life.
Symptoms of PTS typically affect your legs and may include:
- pain and cramping
- tingling and itching
- skin discoloration
- sores or ulcers on the skin
It may be difficult to differentiate the symptoms of PTS from another blood clot, but in most cases of PTS you can get some relief by resting and elevating your legs. See a doctor to help you determine the cause.
Can DVT lead to heart failure?
DVT doesn’t lead to heart failure. Another type of blood clot in the artery, called arterial thrombosis, can lead to heart attack or stroke. Arterial thrombosis usually occurs in the heart or brain, while DVT occurs in the deep veins of the legs, pelvis, and sometimes arms.
If you have any symptoms of DVT or its complications, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Treating DVT can reduce the risk of developing more serious conditions.
Standard treatment recommendations may include the following:
- blood thinners
- compression stockings
- lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and staying active
In more serious cases, the following may be recommended:
Vena cava filter
If blood thinners aren’t effective, a vena cava filter may be recommended. This filter is inserted inside a large vein, called the vena cava, and is designed to catch blood clots before they enter the lungs.
At a hospital, IV clot busters known as thrombolytics are placed directly into the clot via a small incision in your skin.
A catheter is inserted into your veins in this procedure to break up and remove a blood clot, and restore blood flow.
Tips for prevention
DVT and its complications are highly preventable. The following lifestyle changes are recommended to decrease your odds of developing DVT:
- see your doctor for regular checkups
- maintain a healthy weight
- stay active
- maintain healthy blood pressure
- don’t smoke
- avoid sitting for long periods of time
- stay hydrated
- during long trips, get up and walk as frequently as possible, and move and flex your feet and legs
- wear loose, comfortable clothing, and avoid alcohol when traveling
DVT can result in serious, life-threatening complications, but in many cases, DVT and its complications are preventable. Knowing the risk factors and symptoms of DVT and seeking treatment as soon as you suspect problems are important to avoid any complications.