DVT or leg pain?

Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT can be a serious health condition, how do you know whether the pain you are feeling is “normal” pain or something more serious?

Let’s explore the signs and symptoms of a DVT.

What is a DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot develops in the veins that are deep in the body.  Deep veins are large veins that are deep inside the body rather than close to the surface or your skin.

Normally, blood flows quickly through the deep veins, however, if something happens to slow down the blood flow, such as an injury, a DVT can form either partially or completely blocking the blood flow through the veins.

Most DVT’s happen in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, but they can occur in any deep vein including:

  • Arms
  • Brain
  • Intestines
  • Liver
  • Kidneys

How common are DVT’s?

Each year, approximately 60,000 people develop DVT in the UK every year, it is the third most common vascular disease, behind heart attacks and strokes.

What causes a DVT?

Sometimes there is no obvious reason why you may develop deep vein thrombosis, however it is usually down to one or more of the following:

  • Damage to the veins
  • Anything causing the blood to slow, most likely if you are unable to move around for long periods of time
  • Anything that triggers the blood clotting process

Common risk factors

Some of the most common risk factors associated with developing a deep vein thrombosis include:

  • Long journeys of more than four hours, especially flying
  • Surgery, you may not be able to move around for a long period of time or you may have a long recovery period preventing you from moving
  • Having an illness or injury that prevents you from moving
  • Taking medications that contain hormones such as the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy
  • Damage to the vein from an injury or operation – for example, if you have had a catheter (a thin tube) in a vein or pacemaker
  • Dehydration – not getting enough fluids

You are also at a greater risk of developing a DVT if:

  • There is a history of deep vein thrombosis in yourself or your family
  • You are over 60, although a DVT can affect people of any age
  • You smoke
  • You are very overweight or obese
  • You have certain conditions that affect your blood clotting
  • Having cancer and some of its treatments such as chemotherapy
  • Having other medical illnesses such as infections or inflammatory conditions
  • Having COVID-19

Symptoms of a DVT

Up to 30% of people with this condition do not have any symptoms at all and sometimes the symptoms are very mild and may not raise concern, however if you do have symptoms they may include:

  • Swelling in the arm or leg – it is unlikely that the whole arm or leg will be swollen
  • Pain, often throbbing in nature or tenderness in the arm or leg, usually worse when standing or walking
  • Skin that is red or discoloured
  • Veins may look swollen or bulging
  • The skin in the area may feel warm or hot to touch
  • Abdominal pain in the case of DVT’s in the abdomen
  • Severe headache, usually of sudden onset in the case of a blood clot affecting the brain

Some people do not realise they have a deep vein thrombosis until the clot moves from their leg or arm and travels to the lungs.  This is an extremely dangerous condition called a pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms of acute pulmonary embolism include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing with blood
  • Light-headedness
  • Fainting

These can often be symptoms of other problems as well, however, if you have any of these symptoms, seek urgent medical help.  This is particularly important if you have any of the risk factors mentioned above.

If you would like some further information or to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or [email address=”luton@healesclinics.com”