Everything You Need to Know About Deep Vein Thrombosis

When your blood develops a clot that is located in one of the deep veins of your leg or arm, the condition is called deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is considered a serious condition because of the potential for part of the clot to break off and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.


To find out everything you need to know about deep vein thrombosis, our vein specialists explain everything you need to know about Deep Vein Thrombosis.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms

Although a DVT does not always present with symptoms, the most common signs are pain in the leg, particularly in the calf, with swelling and warmth. The pain is sometimes described as similar to a cramp in the calf, but instead of improving with time, the symptoms of a DVT typically become worse.


DVT symptoms generally include:

  • Pain in the leg
  • Leg swelling
  • Warm skin in the clot area
  • Thickening, hardening veins

Waiting to see if the symptoms resolve on their own can be dangerous, as a blood clot can become mobile and migrate to the lungs, causing more serious issues. This is called a pulmonary embolism and can be life-threatening. Signs of a pulmonary embolism include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sudden cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms

How to Test for DVT at Home

  1. Lay flat on your back
  2. Extend your knee
  3. Have a family member raise the extended leg to about 10 degrees and have them squeeze the calf
  4. If you experience pain in the calf, it may be a symptom of deep vein thrombosis.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Prevention

Making a few lifestyle changes can significantly lower your risk of developing DVT. Consider making the following changes to your day-to-day routines:

Not all cases of deep vein thrombosis can be prevented since a DVT can occur due to bed rest after surgery or after an injury that causes prolonged sitting. Some risk factors make a DVT more likely to happen, so to reduce the chance for one to occur, it is recommended to take preventative measures.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Causes

Individuals with a history of vein or circulation issues could benefit from a baseline of vein mapping to look for changes if symptoms are felt.

  • Hormones. Hormone replacement and hormonal birth control increase the chance of a blood clot.
  • Pregnancy. Hormonal changes and excess pressure increase risk.
  • Smoking. Since smoking affects blood circulation, smokers are at increased risk of clots.
  • Genetics. Some genetic mutations have been linked to risk, so those with these mutations need extra precautions.
  • Weight issues. Obesity can cause blood circulation issues and increased risk.
  • Other vein issues. Individuals with varicose veins or other vein problems could have circulation issues in general.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment

Once a DVT occurs, it is vital for treatment to begin immediately to prevent blood clot migration. A vein clinic can review your symptoms and then use specialized ultrasound vein mapping to determine if a clot is present. Regular vein mapping can determine if the clot is stable, especially since pain or swelling symptoms can linger after the immediate threat has passed.

If a DVT diagnosis is made, a vein doctor will typically prescribe blood thinners to prevent the clot from getting any bigger or for more clots to develop.

Treatment can help to lower the potential for a pulmonary embolism. Some severe cases are treated with clot-busting medications or surgery.

Image Credit: Getty Images / Piyapong Thongcharoen

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Gilvydis

Dr. Rimas Gilvydis, M.D, is the co-founder of Northern Illinois Vein Clinic (NIVC) in Rockford, Illinois, and the founder of Gilvydis Vein Clinic (GVC) in Naperville, Sycamore, and Geneva, Illinois. A board-certified interventionalist and diplomate of the American Board of Venous & Lymphatic Medicine, Dr. Gilvydis has been treating varicose veins with minimally invasive techniques since they were first introduced.

Schedule a Consultation With Dr. Gilvydis

For over 20 years, Dr. Gilvydis has been helping patients just like you. Blood pooling doesn’t have to dictate your life—so choose the vein doctors Illinois trusts. The team at Gilvydis Vein Clinic has performed over 24,000 successful laser vein treatments.


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Get back to yourself.

We’re proud to be one of three vein centers in Illinois  with an IAC accreditation. Get back on your feet with a team of vein specialists who help you understand your vein treatment options.