A blood clot in the vein is called deep vein thrombosis. When attended to and treated immediately, it can keep you safe from further complications:
- You spare yourself from long-term complications such as leg pain and swelling.
- You can prevent the clot from becoming bigger.
- You can keep the clot from travelling to other body organs.
- You can prevent future blood clots from developing.
Treating deep vein thrombosis or DVT is important so pulmonary embolism (PE) does not occur, the risk of developing posthrombotic syndrome (PTS) is avoided, and morbidity is reduced. In most cases, you will be given medication to treat deep vein thrombosis.
Anticoagulation therapy is considered the most common treatment for DVT. Anticoagulants are also called blood thinners. It works by decreasing your blood’s capability to clot so existing clots won’t get bigger.
Normally, the body dissolves blood clots that are formed. However, if you have deep vein thrombosis, anticoagulants can no longer break up or dissolve these clots. These blood thinners may be given through IV or it can come in the form of injection or pill.
Warfarin and Heparin are the two main anticoagulants used in the treatment of DVT. Heparin is given using IV while Warfarin comes in pill form. There are different types of Heparin however and your doctor will be able to clearly discuss your options with you.
There are also instances wherein you will be treated using both Heparin and Warfarin. More often than not, patients are given Heparin first as it is known to work faster, then they are given Warfarin to keep future clots from developing.
For pregnant women however, only Heparin is given as Warfarin is not considered safe when taken during pregnancy. Anticoagulant treatments usually take six months to complete. However, there are factors that can influence the length of treatment:
- For those patients who have had a history of other blood clots, treatment may take a while longer.
- If the blood clot developed after surgery, treatment time would be shorter.
Blood thinners have a serious side effect that patients need to watch out for. If the blood thins too much, bleeding can likely occur. If not treated properly and promptly, this can prove fatal as it can lead to internal bleeding. Patients who are given anticoagulants are usually advised to have routine blood examinations like PT and PTT in order to gauge the blood’s ability to clot.
Other alternative medications include:
These are given to patients with severe symptoms secondary to blood clots. Often used only during life threatening situations as they can cause sudden bleeding.
These are the likely options given to those patients who cannot take Heparin. These medications are given to interfere with blood clotting.
Other treatment options are:
Graduated compression stockings
Leg swelling secondary to blood clots can be remedied by using graduated compression stocking. These stockings are worn from the foot to the knee. Compression stockings helps create gentle pressure on the leg and can keep the blood from clotting.
There are 3 types of stockings to pick from:
- OTC compression hose – provides moderate amount of pressure
- Support pantyhose – provides the least amount of pressure
- Prescription-strength compression hose – provides the most amount of pressure.
Vena cava filter
If you cannot take blood thinners or if you do not respond at all to them, your physician will recommend you have a vena cava filter. This filter is inserted into your vena cava vein in order to catch any blood clot before it travels to the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism. This treatment however will not guarantee new blood clots won’t develop.
If you notice any of the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis, get in touch with your doctor right away. Doing so will help ensure you are given treatment before the condition escalates.