Checking Yourself for DVT At Home
Checking for deep vein thrombosis should be part of your health care routine. Learn about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options.
Your body is home to a complex system of arteries and veins responsible for circulating blood, nutrients, carbon dioxide, oxygen, and more throughout your body. Sometimes, blood clots may form in your veins, including your limbs’ deep veins. Knowing how to check for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) at home can help you locate and treat clots before embolization, a process in which parts of a clot travel through the bloodstream and become lodged elsewhere, including the heart or pulmonary arteries.
What Is DVT?
Deep veins, found deep within the muscles, deliver blood back to your heart. As you move, your muscles squeeze these veins to encourage circulation, but blood clots, or thrombi, can form if your veins are damaged or if your blood flow is slow. Though DVT may occur in the arms, these clots are more commonly found in the legs.
If a full or partial clot breaks away and travels through your bloodstream, it may become lodged in an artery, blocking blood flow and potentially causing a pulmonary embolism (PE), heart attack, or stroke.
Risk Factors For DVT
People who smoke, are undergoing hormone replacement therapy, take birth control pills, have cancer, are affected by polycythemia, or suffer from inflammatory bowel disease are at a higher risk of DVT. Undergoing surgery, pregnancy, obesity, being over the age of 60, and having a family history of DVT may also raise one’s chances of developing DVT. Spending a prolonged period of time sitting or lying down can also put people at a greater risk of DVT, as this can lead to poor blood circulation.
Signs of DVT To Check For At Home
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms in a leg, you may have DVT.
Swelling: Often the only symptom of DVT, swelling may be the result of blocked blood flow caused by a clot. Sometimes, the swelling will be immediately visible and felt. However, slight swelling may only become noticeable when putting on tighter clothing like pants or high boots. Your leg may also feel warm.
Discolored skin: Discolored skin can also indicate bruises, but if you notice reddish or bluish patches of skin that don’t fade over time, you may have DVT.
Pain, tenderness, and cramps: Cramps or charley horses may also be symptoms of DVT. Cramps caused by a blood clot will often begin in the calf and radiate outward. They may also get worse over time.
Often, DVT is asymptomatic, so you won’t realize you have a blood clot until it causes a pulmonary embolism. Symptoms of this life-threatening condition include dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, a rapid heart rate, sudden shortness of breath, stabbing pain while breathing, and sudden coughing, which may be accompanied by blood or mucus. If you have any symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, seek medical attention immediately.
Have someone raise your leg 10 degrees, suddenly squeeze your calf with one hand, and flex your foot with the other as you extend your knee. If you experience deep calf pain or tenderness during the dorsiflexion sign test (also known as the Homan’s sign test), you might have DVT and should speak with your doctor as soon as possible.
Be aware; the dorsiflexion test is just a starting point and may not always be accurate. If you suspect you have DVT, your doctor will be able to perform an ultrasound to assess any clots more accurately. They may also opt for a D-dimer test. These small protein fragments are released when the body breaks down clots. An elevated D-dimer level may indicate a deep vein blood clot. Your doctor may also use venography, MRI scans, or CT scans to locate blood clots.
Having a regular exercise routine can improve circulation, making it less likely that you’ll suffer from DVT. If you spend the majority of your day sitting, try to elevate your legs and periodically flex your feet. Make sure to stand up and move around at least once every hour whenever possible to reduce your risk of developing DVT.
Wearing compression stockings will apply pressure to your legs, boost blood circulation, prevent existing clots from growing, and lower the chances of new clots forming. Managing your weight, abstaining from smoking, regularly stretching your legs, reducing your sugar and salt intake, and drinking plenty of water can also help.
Your doctor may prescribe anticoagulants (blood thinners), such as warfarin or heparin to stop existing clots from continuing to grow and prevent the development of new clots.
If you are unable to take anticoagulant medications, or they have not been effective, your doctor may recommend inserting a filter. Inserting a filter into your vena cava — a vein in your abdomen — can prevent clots from traveling to your lungs and causing a pulmonary embolism.
Thrombolytics and thrombectomies are generally a last resort, as these carry higher risks than other treatment options. Thrombolytics (also known as clot busters) can quickly dissolve clots, but they may cause bleeding. Thrombectomies — surgical procedures to remove clots — carry the risk of bleeding, infection, and blood vessel damage.
Seeing A Medical Professional
If you believe you have DVT, see your doctor as soon as possible. Deep vein blood clots can quickly undergo embolization, leading to dangerous complications like heart attacks, strokes, and more.
Countless patients have received high-quality vascular care for their venous disorders from Center for Vein Restoration. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Aditya Gupta, a triple board-certified physician, at Center for Vein Restoration’s Southwest Austin or Northwest Austin location today!
7900 Farm to Market Road 1826, Building 1, Suite 170
Austin, TX 78737
11111 Research Boulevard, Suite 400
Austin, Texas 78759