Deep vein thrombosis is a medical condition diagnosed when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, generally the legs. The blood clot can move to the lungs causing life-threatening side effects. The risk of deep vein thrombosis increases during pregnancy.
Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis tend to start localized. Localized symptoms include redness, pain, swelling and warming of the skin. If the blood clot moves to the lungs, called pulmonary embolism, symptoms may progress to include shortness of breath, cough and chest pain. If pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis goes untreated, the condition can be life-threatening.
Deep vein thrombosis can be diagnosed if visual symptoms are present, but some patients are not diagnosed until the blood clot has broken off and moved to the lungs (pulmonary embolism). If physical symptoms are present, an ultrasound may be ordered to verify the presence of a deep vein blood clot. The ultrasound takes pictures of blood movement through the deep veins of the legs using sound. The pictures will show limited blood flow in the area where the blood clot is located.
The most common treatment for deep vein thrombosis is prescription blood thinners called anti-coagulants. The blood thinners prevent new blood clots from forming and help the body naturally break down existing blood clots. Certain blood thinners are safe for use during pregnancy. Other possible treatments include thrombin inhibitors for patients who do cannot take blood thinners or thrombolytics to quickly dissolve exiting blood clots.
Effect on Pregnancy
Pregnant women are at increased risk of developing blood clots in deep veins due to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Increased levels of reproductive hormones can cause blood to coagulate more easily. When blood coagulates, blood clots can occur. It is best to minimize standing or sitting for long periods during pregnancy to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. After pregnancy, hormone levels remain elevated, but activity level may decrease with fatigue or recovery from vaginal or C-section birth, further increasing the risk of deep vein thrombosis.
With proper treatment and continued care, if needed, deep vein thrombosis can be resolved without affecting lifespan or health. If deep vein thrombosis advances to pulmonary embolism and the condition is not recognized in time or medical treatment is ineffective, death can occur.
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