What is deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
The human body is made up of many different types of veins, with one major classification being superficial veins (nearer to the surface of the skin), and deep veins (located deeper in the body). Deep vein thrombosis is a condition that occurs when a blood clot is formed in the deep veins of the body, hence causing a severely reduced blood flow. A similar condition happens in superficial veins, known as superficial venous thrombosis. However, this condition is not as life-threatening as deep vein thrombosis.
Deep vein thrombosis may result in a pulmonary embolism, a condition in which the blood clot travels through the veins and gets stuck in the blood vessels that lead to the lungs. This condition is fatal and life-threatening, as the oxygen supply to the tissues could be depleted severely.
The focus of this article will be on deep vein thrombosis.
What causes deep vein thrombosis?
Virchow's triad consists of three major factors that can cause thrombosis or other forms of venous dysfunction. These three factors are hypercoagulability (an increased tendency for your blood to clot up), venous stasis (or lack of blood flow as a result of prolonged immobilization) and damage to the skin's endothelial lining. This can be summarized using the acrostic below:
E ndothelial lining damage
Hughes syndrome, or antiphospholipid syndrome, is an immune system disorder that causes an increased risk of blood clots forming. It occurs when a patient's immune system creates unnecessary antibodies that cause the clotting of the blood. Around 1 in 5 cases of deep vein thrombosis is commonly associated with antiphospholipid antibodies.
Genetic / hereditary reasons
Genetic disorders such as Factor V Leiden mutation, Prothrombin gene mutation, Antithrombin III, Protein C and Protein S deficiencies may result in a patient developing deep vein thrombosis. These genetic disorders are rare, but should be considered in the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis.
Signs and symptoms
Deep vein thrombosis is mostly (50%) asymptomatic. However, in some cases, there can sometimes be inflammation and pain experienced in the area surrounding the thrombosis (blood clot).
The symptoms can be summarised below:
Who is at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis?
The risk factors for deep vein thrombosis can be summarised in the table below.
The different modes of diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis can be summarised in the table below.
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