“Thrombus” is another word for blood clot. Deep vein thrombosis, also called deep venous thrombosis or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the leg. The leg has both superficial veins under the skin and deep veins; blood clots in the deep veins of the leg are more dangerous because they can travel to the lungs in a condition called pulmonary embolism. An embolism is term that refers to a mobile blood clot. Pulmonary embolism can cut off blood flow to part of the lungs, which can be life-threatening.
Deep vein thromboses may occur suddenly, but there are certain risk factors that can contribute to your likelihood of developing a deep vein thrombosis. DVTs are more common in people over the age of 60, but they can develop in people of any age. Having a recent surgery, especially surgery in the hip, leg or pelvis, also increases your risk. Extended bedrest greatly increases your risk of developing blood clots. Recent injuries, especially bone fractures in the legs or pelvis, increase your risk of developing blood clots in the legs. Being obese or recently giving birth also can contribute to your risk. Some medical conditions also increase your risk of developing blood clots, including having too many blood cells, cancer, lupus and some other autoimmune conditions and blood clotting disorders. Smoking cigarettes and taking estrogen also increase your risk of developing blood clots, especially in combination. Deep vein thromboses can occur unexpectedly during long periods of traveling, especially in high-risk individuals.
Symptoms of a deep vein thrombosis include leg pain that may be sudden, swelling of the leg and redness of the skin. People with deep vein thromboses are given medications that thin the blood, such as heparin and warfarin, to prevent further blood clots from forming. These medications do not dissolve clots that have already formed. Compression stockings are also usually given for daily wear; the pressure on the leg helps prevent additional blood clots. In some cases, surgery is necessary to remove a blood clot that has already formed or to prevent existing blood clots from becoming a pulmonary embolism.
Pulmonary embolism is a medical emergency. Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include trouble breathing, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing and irregular heart beat.