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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that causes the formation of blood clots in the veins present deep inside the body.
A fibrous protein, called fibrin, forms a network and traps blood cells to create a blood clot. (1) They usually form in the deep veins of the calf or in the veins that have been exposed to some sort of injury. (1)
Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition and may require immediate medical intervention. Thrombosis may be considered to be closely related to several diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, and various inflammatory conditions. (2)
Causes of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Some of the causes and risk factors associated with deep vein thrombosis are as follows: (2)
- Injury or trauma to the muscle or blood vessel: An injury, such as a fall or an accident, can damage muscles and also blood vessels, resulting in the narrowing of the blood vessel cavity. This can result in the formation of a blood clot or thrombus.
- Pregnancy: Many patients develop thrombosis postpartum or after a Cesarean section. The trauma associated with the delivery and the Cesarean section may be a trigger for the development of deep vein thrombosis.
- Surgery: Rarely, damage to blood vessels during a surgery can lead to the formation of a blood clot. Being placed on bed rest or a sedentary lifestyle after surgery can also put you at risk of developing blood clots.
- Immobilization: Inactivity or immobility can cause blood to collect in the lower part of the body, resulting in clot formation.
- Other risk factors: Other risk factors include certain cancers, obesity, infectious disease, certain medications, and long-distance travel.
- Inherited risk factors: More than half of the cases of inherited deep vein thrombosis are due to a mutation in one or more of the genes involved in blood coagulation.
Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis can cause a host of symptoms or no symptoms at all. Cases of deep vein thrombosis without any symptoms can sometimes lead to a pulmonary embolism (a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot) or post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS).
Symptoms of post-thrombotic syndrome are:
- Leg pain
- Leg heaviness
- Vein dilation
- Skin pigmentation
- Venous ulcers
The presentation of symptoms varies depending upon the location of the thrombus. However, in most cases, swelling, warmth, pain in the legs, dilated superficial veins, low-grade fever, and ulcers occur in severe cases. (3)
Treatment for Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis is a serious medical condition. Hence, consult your doctor right away if you think you have symptoms of deep vein thrombosis.
Deep vein thrombosis treatments are focused on preventing the clot from growing in size and lowering the risk of having more clots. Additionally, the treatment also tries to ensure that the clot does not cause any serious complications such as pulmonary embolism.
Blood-thinning agents are conventionally prescribed to keep the size of the existing clots as small as possible and also to prevent the formation of new clots.
At times, filters are inserted into the abdominal vein to prevent the clot from traveling into the lungs and causing a pulmonary embolism. In recent times, the filters have been replaced by balloons that serve the same purpose. (4)
Either of these should be used for a short time only, and long-term usage of either is not advisable.
In extreme cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the clot. This is done only if the clot is extremely large. (4)
Some homeopathic drugs, such as Arnica montana, Arsenicum album, Belladonna, Lachesis, and Rhus toxicodendron have been used in clinical trials and have been effective in dissolving blood clots. (6)
Ayurvedic formulations such as Kaisora Guggulu, Chitrakadi Vati, Punarnavadi Guggulu/Kashayam, and Shilajit have been successfully used in the treatment of deep vein thrombosis. (7)
6. Natural products with antithrombotic activity
Many natural plants and plant products have been shown to have antithrombotic (ability to dissolve clots or inhibit clot formation) effects both in laboratory animals and in clinical trials. (8) These include:
- Chinese quince, which prevents platelet aggregation and clot formation, loquat, which prevents thrombus formation, and withaferin A from Withania somnifera (ashwagandha), which prevents the formation of the fibrin network (clot). (8)
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa): This is a tropical herb found in Southeast Asia and has many medicinal properties. Recent research has revealed that it has antithrombotic activity due to its content of a chemical called ar-turmerone. (9) Additionally, the antithrombotic activity of turmeric has been reported to be significantly higher than aspirin, which is one of the currently used antithrombotic agents. (9) Thus, turmeric may be used for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis. You can add turmeric powder liberally to your soups and curries.
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale): This is another tropical herb with anti-clot-forming activity. It contains three compounds that are responsible for its antithrombotic activity: gingerol, paradol, and shogaol. A 2015 review reported that ingestion of 5 g of ginger powder per day was effective in inhibiting clot formation. (10) The effect of ginger powder was comparable to that of aspirin, which is one of the currently used drugs in the treatment of deep vein thrombosis. (10)
- Garlic (Allium sativum): The antithrombotic activity of garlic powder was shown in rat models of thrombosis, according to a study reported in 2018 in Food Science and Biotechnology. (11)
- Grape seed extract: The ability of grape seed extract to prevent clot formation was demonstrated clearly in a 2019 study conducted on blood samples from 30 human volunteers. (12) The blood samples were incubated with 15 μg/ml of grape seed extract and the blood coagulation time was studied. It was found that the coagulation time was delayed in the blood samples treated with grape seed extract, suggesting that it has clot-dissolving properties and hence may be used as a supplement in multivitamin formulations. (12)
7. Other ways to deal with deep vein thrombosis at home
In addition to the above, other ways of dealing with deep vein thrombosis include the following:
a. Compression stockings
Compression stockings reach just below your knee or right above it. Recent studies indicate that the use of graduated compression stockings (GCS) causes varying amounts of pressure to be applied to different parts of the leg. Thus, they may help in the prevention of deep vein thrombosis. (13)
Certain yogic postures such as the forward bend pose, legs up the wall, and mountain pose are useful in preventing clots from forming. (14)
Diagnosis of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Diagnosis can be made by a qualified surgeon with the use of duplex ultrasonography or venography of both legs or Doppler ultrasound. (3)
Most-Asked Questions About Deep Vein Thrombosis
Where does deep vein thrombosis most commonly occur?
Deep vein thrombosis can occur in any deep vein, but it most commonly occurs in the lower half of the body: veins in the pelvis, calf, or thigh.
Is deep vein thrombosis a lifelong problem?
Most people with deep vein thrombosis recover completely with proper treatment.
What foods are to be avoided in deep vein thrombosis?
Avoid alcohol, trans fat-containing foods, sodas, candy, and processed meats.
How many people are affected by deep vein thrombosis?
The precise number of people affected by deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism (PE) is unknown, although as many as 900,000 people could be affected each year in the United States.
Studies indicate that around 60,000–100,000 Americans die of deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism (also called venous thromboembolism, or VTE). (15)
What are the risk factors for deep vein thrombosis?
There are three risk groups for developing deep vein thrombosis.
- High risk: Patients above 40 years of age who undergo general or urological surgery, those with a history of pulmonary embolism (a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot), those with extensive pelvic or abdominal surgery or major surgery of the lower limb. Other risk factors include previous history of stroke and obesity.
- Moderate risk: Patients above 40 years of age who undergo surgery that lasts more than half an hour and patients on oral contraceptives.
- Low risk: Patients below 40 years of age who are undergoing a minor surgery that lasts for less than half an hour. (16)
Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition that can be fatal. It can manifest without any symptoms; hence, it is important to be aware of the risk factors and share any concerns with your doctor.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle, exercising, and regular walking are some of the ways to manage deep vein thrombosis risk.