Leg cramps can occur for lots of reasons – overexertion or repetitive use, pulled or strained muscles, dehydration, for instance, all of which are relatively benign and easily treated. But sometimes, that aching pain can be a sign of one of the most serious vein problems – DVT or deep vein thrombosis.
When it comes to leg pain causes, DVT may not be as common as, say, overexertion; but unless it’s promptly and properly treated, the effects of DVT can be deadly. In fact, the CDC says as many as 60,000 to 100,000 people die each year in the U.S. as a result of DVT.
What is DVT?
A thrombosis is a clot, and deep vein thrombosis refers to clots that form deep inside your veins – usually your leg veins. In place, clots can cause pain and other symptoms; but if they break free, they can travel through your bloodstream to your lungs, where they can block critical blood flow and even cause death.
So how can you tell if your leg pain is due to DVT or another cause? You can start by knowing the symptoms:
- Swelling is the most common symptom, and in a DVT, swelling typically occurs only in the affected leg. Also, while swelling due to fluid retention and some other causes may resolve after a period of elevation, in DVT, swelling usually remains even after the leg has been elevated for several hours.
- Redness and tenderness in the area of swelling is another common symptom of DVT.
- Symptoms of DVT tend to become worse over time, while symptoms associated with muscle strain usually resolve as time goes by.
- For calf pain, DVT usually causes pain in the back of the calf, while an injured muscle typically causes discomfort in the side of the calf.
Unfortunately, only about half of all people who have a DVT exhibit noticeable symptoms, which can make the condition very difficult to diagnose without a doctor’s aid.
DVT Risk Factors
Anyone can develop DVT, but some factors can put you at greater risk, including:
- Having had surgery recently
- Having been inactive for a period of time, such as when recovering from an illness or surgery
- Taking birth control pills or hormone replacement medications
A family history of DVT could also increase your own chance for developing the condition.
One of the best ways to reduce your risks for DVT and to improve your overall vein health is to be active. Walking causes the leg muscles to contract, and those contractions help keep blood flowing. When blood is moving normally, it’s less likely to form clots. On the other hand, when we’re inactive or lead very sedentary lifestyles, blood flow can become sluggish, making it easier for clots to form. Another important step: Make sure to have routine vein evaluations to help “catch” vein problems in their earliest stages. An experienced vascular surgeon will be able to suggest vein treatment options, including minimally-invasive treatments, based on your needs so you can feel confident in your results.
If you’ve experienced leg pain, swelling, varicose veins or other symptoms of vein problems, don’t delay getting care. Call Vein & Vascular Institute at 856-309-8346 and schedule a vein evaluation today.