What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

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What is Deep Vein ThrombosisOverview: Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins in the leg. Although the clot itself not necessarily harmful, the condition can lead to life threatening situations if the clot breaks off and gets stuck in the lungs, brain, heart or other areas in what is known as an embolism. There are several risk factors for developing DVT, such as a cigarette smoking and the use of oral contraceptives.

Causes

The chances of developing deep vein thrombosis increase under conditions where blood is not allowed to circulate normally, such as during long flights or prolonged bed rest due to paralysis. You are also more likely to develop the condition if there is a family history DVT or embolism. Other risk factors include being overweight, age (typically above 60 years, although DVT can occur at any age), injury or surgery, pregnancy, inflammatory bowel disease, heart failure, inheriting a blood-clotting disorder, having a catheter or in a vein, and smoking.

Women who use birth control pills are also at an increased risk of developing DVT. According to Medline Plus, this risk increases even more for smokers. Although all types of oral contraceptives pose some increased risk of blood clots, it appears that the chances may be significantly higher for birth control pills containing drospirenone, such as Yaz or Yasmin. Drospirenone is a synthetic version of progesterone, a female hormone. In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated the safety label on drospirenone-containing birth control pills to warn about the associated with blood clots; epidemiological studies showed that the risk of blood clots may three times as high in women taking pills with drospirenone compared to those with other types of progestins.

Symptoms

According to Mayo Clinic, signs of deep vein thrombosis include:

  • Swelling in the leg, ankle and foot
  • Pain the leg that often starts in the calf and feels like cramping or charley horse
  • Warmth in the area with DVT
  • Change in skin color; i.e. turning pale, blue, red

Not all DVT patients experience symptoms. In fact, half of all cases occur without any noticeable signs.

Pulmonary embolism, which is when a blood clot gets lodged in the lungs, is a life-threatening complication of DVT. If you think you are experiencing a pulmonary embolism, seek immediate medical attention. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as warning signs of a pulmonary embolism:

  • Unexplained sudden onset of shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort that worsens when you take a deep breath or when you cough
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or fainting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Coughing up blood
  • A sense of anxiety or nervousness

Source: Mayo Clinic: Deep Vein Thrombosis

Seeking Treatment

Speak with your doctor if you think you have deep vein thrombosis. He or she will most likely perform a physical examination to check for swelling, tenderness or discoloration in the skin. You will also be asked questions about your symptoms. Be sure to mention whether or not you are taking Yaz, Yasmin, Beyaz, Safyral and other birth control pills with drospirenone.