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Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots)

Deep vein throbmosis (abbreviated as DVT) is the formation of a blood clot within a deep vein, this commonly affects the deep veins of the leg (in the calf or thigh).

What are the early signs and symptoms of a DVT?

A DVT may occasionally occur without symptoms, but usually the affected limb will be:

  • painful
  • red
  • swollen
  • and warm

The most serious complication of a DVT is that it can dislodge from the vein and travel up into the lungs where it can affect breathing – this is called a pulmonary embolism (PE).

What causes a DVT?

  1. Decreased flow rate of the blood
  2. Damage to the blood vessel wall (see image below)
  3. Increased tendency of the blood to clot

deep vein thrombosis

A number of factors bring about these conditions to increase the risk of a DVT:

  • Immobilisation (such as lying in bed following surgery or sitting down for long plane or car trips)
  • Following surgery
  • Major trauma
  • Increasing age
  • Presence of cancerous tumour
  • Heart failure
  • Previous DVT
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes (as it damages the blood vessels)
  • Obesity – as it puts more weight on the veins, causing them to weaken
  • Childbirth – the physical strain of childbirth puts pressure on the deep veins, causing them to weaken
  • Tobacco smoking – damages the blood vessels and doubles the risk of clot formation

What to do if you think you have a Deep Vein Thrombosis:

You should consult  your doctor or emergency centre as soon as possible for treatment.

Preventitive measures against having a DVT:

  • Keep moving, if you do need to sit for long periods (eg in the car/ plane) pump your ankles up and down, do static muscle squeezes of your thighs and buttocks

Foot and ankle exercises

  • Wear a correctly fitted compression stocking on the legs for long haul flights, especially if you have a number of risk factors for DVT

Compression stockings

  • If you have risk factors for DVT see your doctor for early advice
  • Follow your doctors post-surgical advice if you have been prescribed exercises, medication or compression garments

Gold Coast Physiotherapy – Burleigh Heads and Broadbeach Physiotherapy Centres 07 5535 5218


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