Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE) are disorders caused by blood clot that blocked either the leg or lung artery.

DVT occurs when a blood clot blocks the artery in the leg or other parts of the body. If the blood clot breaks away and travels all the way to the lungs, it can lead to pulmonary embolism or PE. DVT and PE are more common than you think. In the US alone, more than 350,000 people suffer from DVT or PE every year. And of the two, PE is the more serious.

DVT Signs and Symptoms

DVT symptoms are very hard to detect because the signs are not as obvious. The most common symptoms of this condition are painful or tender spots on the legs while standing up or walking and discolored skin. The affected area is warmer and painful than the rest of the leg. Eventually, the blocked artery will cause the whole leg to swell so it’s larger in girth than the other leg. Other symptoms include cramps, and painful foot or ankles.

Do note that a blood clot in the thigh artery has a higher risk of causing PE than blockages at the lower leg.

Treatments and Prevention

This condition is often caused by a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, the risk of developing DVT is higher if you spend more than 4 hours sitting down.

You can prevent DVT by making better lifestyle choices. If you are prone to prolonged sitting or standing up, we recommend doing bits of leg stretching and exercise daily. If you are recovering from a certain condition and you were on bed rest for several weeks, walk around to get blood pumping into the legs. Your doctor could recommend blood thinners to prevent blood clots.

Pulmonary Embolism

PE occurs when the blood cloth from DVT broke away from the legs and moved up to the lungs, blocking a blood vessel. This condition can be fatal so treatment should be applied at once. PE can lead to low oxygen level in the blood, tissue damage and even heart failure.

Usually, people diagnosed with DVT are at risk of developing PE. If you have DVT, follow your doctor’s treatment plan to prevent new clots from forming.

PE Symptoms and Diagnosis

Usually, PE does not cause any symptoms until the condition turns serious. The most common PE symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, fast heartbeat and recurring cough. Other symptoms include coughing up blood, fainting and anxiety.

Treatment and Prevention

PE treatment will depend on the symptoms. Usually, you will be given a thrombolytic to dissolve the offending clot. However, blood thinners may cause uncontrolled bleeding so you will stay in the hospital throughout the treatment.

Apart from a shot of thrombolytic, your doctor may give you drugs to reduce the clotting process. The meds won’t dissolve the blood clot, but it will give the body more time to liquefy the blood clot and prevent it from getting bigger. After taking the meds, you will take blood thinners for at least 3 months. In serious cases of PE, surgery may be needed to remove the blood clot.

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