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What Happens if DVT Goes Untreated?

Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is the medical term for a blood clot in one of the deep veins in the body. The two most common locations are the legs or veins of the pelvis. Left untreated, vein problems like a DVT can be fatal. Here are the basics about DVT and treatment from Dr. Charles Dietzek of the Vein and Vascular Institute of New Jersey.

About Deep Vein Thrombosis

One common cause of DVT is a condition called thrombophlebitis. This inflammatory process occurs in a vein, causing swelling, heat, and redness. The area may be tender to touch or pain. Superficial thrombophlebitis is of less concern than thrombophlebitis of deeper veins. This condition is more common in those with varicose veins but may also occur after an injury or a long period of immobility. The inflammation in the vein wall can cause a blood clot to form. If a piece of the blood clot breaks loose, it will be carried to the lungs and lodged in one of the smaller blood vessels there.

Risk Factors for Thrombophlebitis and DVT

Obesity and inactivity in a person with varicose veins are two major risk factors for DVT. Anything that irritates the wall of the vein, such as a pacemaker or intravenous catheter, increases the risk of thrombophlebitis. Other risk factors include pregnancy and childbirth, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, a family history of blood-clotting disorders, or a stroke. Smokers, those who have cancer or are older than 60, are also at increased risk.

Complications of Untreated DVT

The most serious risk of untreated DVT is a pulmonary embolism. This occurs when a blood clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs. It is an emergency situation and can be fatal. A pulmonary embolism can restrict blood flow to the heart, causing a strain that results in heart enlargement. This can cause heart failure because the heart can’t pump as strongly. Post-thrombotic syndrome, or post-phlebitic syndrome, occurs when blood clots form in the legs and obstruct blood flow. Pain, swelling, and ulcers – which have the potential for infection – may also result.

Treatment for DVT

Prevention is the best option. Try to maintain a normal weight, don’t smoke, and get regular exercise. On a long trip, pump your leg muscles or get up and walk around every hour or so. If you have varicose veins seek vein treatment. This usually means a minimally invasive procedure conducted in a doctor’s office such as sclerotherapy, laser therapy or a micro-phlebectomy. Once DVT actually occurs and is confirmed by a diagnostic procedure such as an ultrasound, anticoagulant medication is usually necessary, sometimes for life. Other supportive treatments, such as compression stockings, can be helpful.

Thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis are conditions that should be treated to prevent complications. One important key is vein treatment for those who have varicose veins. If you have this problem, please contact our office. Dr. Dietzek is an experienced vein doctor who can assess your situation and make recommendations for treatment.

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