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Leg pain dvt symptoms: DVT (deep vein thrombosis) – NHS


DVT (deep vein thrombosis) – NHS

DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a blood clot in a vein, usually in the leg. DVT can be dangerous. Get medical help as soon as possible if you think you have DVT.

Symptoms of DVT (deep vein thrombosis)

Symptoms of DVT (deep vein thrombosis) in the leg are:

  • throbbing pain in 1 leg (rarely both legs), usually in the calf or thigh, when walking or standing up
  • swelling in 1 leg (rarely both legs)
  • warm skin around the painful area
  • red or darkened skin around the painful area – this may be harder to see on brown or black skin
  • swollen veins that are hard or sore when you touch them

These symptoms can also happen in your arm or tummy if that’s where the blood clot is.


DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/440619/view

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:

You have symptoms of DVT (deep vein thrombosis), such as pain and swelling, and:

  • breathlessness
  • chest pain

DVT can be very serious because blood clots can travel to your lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism.

A pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening and needs treatment straight away.

Who is more likely to get DVT (deep vein thrombosis)

A DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is more likely to happen if you:

  • are over 60
  • are overweight
  • smoke
  • have had DVT before
  • take the contraceptive pill or HRT
  • have cancer or heart failure
  • have varicose veins

There are also some times when you have a higher chance of getting DVT.

These include if you:

  • are staying in or recently left hospital – especially if you cannot move around much (like after an operation)
  • are confined to bed
  • go on a long journey (more than 3 hours) by plane, car or train
  • are pregnant or if you’ve had a baby in the previous 6 weeks
  • are dehydrated

Sometimes DVT can happen for no obvious reason.

How DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is diagnosed

If a doctor thinks you have DVT (deep vein thrombosis), you should be referred to hospital within 24 hours for an ultrasound scan. The scan shows whether blood is flowing normally through the vein.

You may also have an X-ray of the vein (venogram). For this, you’ll be injected with a dye to show where the blood clot is.

Treatment of DVT (deep vein thrombosis)

You may have an injection of a blood-thinning medicine called heparin while you’re waiting for an ultrasound scan to see if you have a DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

The main treatments include:

  • blood-thinning medicines, such as warfarin or rivaroxaban – you’ll probably need to take these for at least 3 months
  • surgery to remove blood clots or stop them forming

If you get a DVT when you’re pregnant, you’ll have injections for the rest of the pregnancy and until your baby is 6 weeks old.

Recovery from DVT (deep vein thrombosis)

There are things you can do to help you recover from DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

After you leave hospital, you’ll be encouraged to:

  • walk regularly
  • keep your affected leg raised when you’re sitting
  • delay any flights or long journeys until at least 2 weeks after you start taking blood-thinning medicine

How to prevent DVT (deep vein thrombosis)

There are things you can do to lower your chance of getting DVT (deep vein thrombosis).


  • stay a healthy weight

  • stay active – taking regular walks can help

  • drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration – DVT is more likely if you’re dehydrated


  • do not sit still for long periods of time – get up and move around every hour or so

  • do not cross your legs while you’re sitting

  • do not smoke

  • do not drink lots of alcohol

Going on a long journey

If you’re travelling for 3 hours or more by plane, train or car, there are things you can do during the journey to lower your chances of getting DVT.

These include:

  • wearing loose clothing
  • drinking plenty of water
  • avoiding alcohol
  • walking around when possible

Going into hospital

If you go into hospital, your healthcare team should check if there’s a higher chance you’ll get DVT.

If they think you’re more likely to get DVT, you may be given treatment to prevent it, such as medicine or compression stockings (knee-high elastic socks that help your blood circulation), while you’re in hospital.

You may continue treatment after you leave hospital because a blood clot can happen weeks later.

You can also help protect yourself against DVT while you’re in hospital by:

  • staying active and walking around if you can
  • moving your toes (up and down) and ankles (in circles) if you have to stay in bed – your healthcare team may give you some exercises to do

Page last reviewed: 22 March 2023
Next review due: 22 March 2026

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – Illnesses & conditions

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Hide guide parts

  1. 1.

    About deep vein thrombosis

  2. 2.

    Deep vein thrombosis causes

  3. 3.

    Deep vein thrombosis treatment

  4. 4.

    Complications of deep vein thrombosis

  5. 5.

    Deep vein thrombosis prevention

About deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that develops within a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg.

Blood clots that develop in a vein are also known as venous thrombosis.

DVT usually occurs in a deep leg vein, a larger vein that runs through the muscles of the calf and the thigh. It can also occur in the pelvis or abdomen.

It can cause pain and swelling in the leg and may lead to complications such as pulmonary embolism. 

DVT and pulmonary embolism together are known as venous thromboembolism (VTE).

DVT symptoms

In some cases, there may be no symptoms of DVT. If symptoms do occur they can include:

  • pain, swelling and tenderness in one of your legs (usually your calf or thigh)
  • a heavy ache in the affected area
  • warm skin in the area of the clot
  • red skin, particularly at the back of your leg below the knee

DVT usually (although not always) affects one leg. The pain may be worse when you bend your foot upward towards your knee.

Urgent advice:

Phone 999 or go to A&E if you have symptoms of DVT like:

  • pain and swelling of the leg, along with either breathlessness or chest pain

Pulmonary embolism

This is a serious condition that occurs when a piece of blood clot breaks off into the bloodstream. This then blocks one of the blood vessels in the lungs, preventing blood from reaching them.

If left untreated, about 1 in 10 people with a DVT will develop a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is a very serious condition which causes:

  • breathlessness – which may come on gradually or suddenly
  • chest pain – which may become worse when you breathe in
  • sudden collapse 

Both DVT and pulmonary embolism need urgent investigation and treatment.

Seek immediate medical attention if you have pain, swelling and tenderness in your leg and develop breathlessness and chest pain.

Read more about the complications of DVT

DVT causes

Each year, DVT affects around 1 person in every 1,000 in the UK.

Anyone can develop DVT, but it becomes more common over the age of 40. As well as age, there are also some other risk factors, including:

  • having a history of DVT or pulmonary embolism
  • having a family history of blood clots
  • being inactive for long periods – such as after an operation or during a long journey
  • blood vessel damage – a damaged blood vessel wall can result in the formation of a blood clot
  • having certain conditions or treatments that cause your blood to clot more easily than normal – such as cancer (including chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment), heart and lung disease, thrombophilia and Hughes syndrome
  • being pregnant – your blood also clots more easily during pregnancy
  • being overweight or obese

The combined contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) both contain the female hormone oestrogen, which causes the blood to clot more easily. If you’re taking either of these, your risk of developing DVT is slightly increased.

Read more about the causes of DVT

Diagnosing DVT

See your GP as soon as possible if you think you may have DVT – for example, if you have pain, swelling and a heavy ache in your leg. They’ll ask you about your symptoms and medical history.

D-dimer test

It can be difficult to diagnose DVT from symptoms alone. Your GP may advise that you have a specialised blood test called a D-dimer test.

This test detects pieces of blood clot that have been broken down and are loose in your bloodstream. The larger the number of fragments found, the more likely it is that you have a blood clot in your vein.

However, the D-dimer test isn’t always reliable because blood clot fragments can increase after an operation, injury or during pregnancy. Additional tests, such as an ultrasound scan, will need to be carried out to confirm DVT.

Ultrasound scan

An ultrasound scan can be used to detect clots in your veins. A special type of ultrasound called a Doppler ultrasound can also be used to find out how fast the blood is flowing through a blood vessel. This helps doctors identify when blood flow is slowed or blocked, which could be caused by a blood clot.


A venogram may be used if the results of a D-dimer test and ultrasound scan can’t confirm a diagnosis of DVT.

During a venogram, a liquid called a contrast dye is injected into a vein in your foot. The dye travels up the leg and can be detected by X-ray, which will highlight a gap in the blood vessel where a clot is stopping the flow of blood.

DVT treatment

Treatment for DVT usually involves taking anticoagulant medicines. These reduce the blood’s ability to clot and stop existing clots getting bigger.

Heparin and warfarin are 2 types of anticoagulant often used to treat DVT. Heparin is usually prescribed first because it works immediately to prevent further clotting. After initial treatment, you may also need to take warfarin to prevent another blood clot forming.

A number of anticoagulants, known as directly acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs), may also be used to treat conditions such as DVT. These medications include rivaroxaban and apixaban, and they’ve been shown to be as effective as heparin and warfarin with less serious side effects.

You’ll also be prescribed compression stockings to wear every day, which will improve your symptoms and help prevent complications.

Read more about treating DVT

DVT prevention

If you need to go into hospital for surgery, a member of your care team will assess your risk of developing a blood clot while you’re there.

If you’re at risk of developing DVT, there are a number of things you can do to prevent a blood clot occurring, both before you go into hospital. These include temporarily stopping taking the combined contraceptive pill, and while you’re in hospital, such as wearing compression stockings.

When you leave hospital, your care team may also make some recommendations to help prevent DVT returning or complications developing. These may include:

  • not smoking
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • taking regular exercise 
  • maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you’re obese

There’s no evidence to suggest that taking aspirin reduces your risk of developing DVT.

See your GP before embarking on long-distance travel if you’re at risk of getting a DVT, or if you’ve had a DVT in the past.

When taking a long-distance journey (6 hours or more) by plane, train or car, you should take steps to avoid getting DVT. Drink plenty of water, perform simple leg exercises and take regular, short walking breaks.

Read more about preventing DVT

Deep vein thrombosis causes

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) sometimes occurs for no apparent reason.

However, the risk of developing DVT is increased in certain circumstances.


When you’re inactive your blood tends to collect in the lower parts of your body, often in your lower legs. This is usually nothing to worry about because when you start to move, your blood flow increases and moves evenly around your body.

However, if you’re unable to move for a long period of time – such as after an operation, because of an illness or injury, or during a long journey – your blood flow can slow down considerably. A slow blood flow increases the chances of a blood clot forming.

In hospital

If you have to go into hospital for an operation or procedure, your risk of getting a blood clot increases. This is because DVT is more likely to occur when you’re unwell or inactive, or less active than usual.

As a patient, your risk of developing DVT depends on the type of treatment you’re having. You may be at increased risk of DVT if any of the following apply:

  • you’re having an operation that takes longer than 90 minutes, or 60 minutes if the operation is on your leg, hip or abdomen
  • you’re having an operation for an inflammatory or abdominal condition, such as appendicitis
  • you’re confined to a bed, unable to walk, or spending a large part of the day in a bed or chair for at least three days

You may also be at increased risk of DVT if you’re much less active than usual because of an operation or serious injury and have other DVT risk factors, such as a family history of the condition.

When you’re admitted to hospital you’ll be assessed for your risk of developing a blood clot and, if necessary, given preventative treatment.

Blood vessel damage

If the wall of a blood vessel is damaged, it may become narrowed or blocked, which can cause a blood clot to form.

Blood vessels can be damaged by injuries such as broken bones or severe muscle damage. Sometimes, blood vessel damage that occurs during surgery can cause a blood clot, particularly in operations on the lower half of your body.

Conditions such as vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), varicose veins and some forms of medication, such as chemotherapy, can also damage blood vessels.

Medical and genetic conditions

Your risk of getting DVT is increased if you have a condition that causes your blood to clot more easily than normal. These conditions include:

  • cancer – cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can increase this risk further
  • heart disease and lung disease
  • infectious conditions, such as hepatitis
  • inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • thrombophilia – a genetic condition where your blood has an increased tendency to clot
  • antiphospholipid syndrome – an immune system disorder that causes an increased risk of blood clots 


During pregnancy, blood clots more easily. It’s the body’s way of preventing too much blood being lost during childbirth.

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) – DVT and pulmonary embolism – affects about 1 in 100,000 women of childbearing age.

DVTs are also rare in pregnancy, although pregnant women are up to 10 times more likely to develop thrombosis than non-pregnant women of the same age. A clot can form at any stage of pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after the birth.

Having thrombophilia (a condition where the blood has an increased tendency to clot), or having a parent, or brother or sister, who’s had a thrombosis, increase your risk of developing a DVT during pregnancy.

Other risk factors during pregnancy include:

  • being over 35 years old
  • being obese (with a BMI of 30 or more)
  • expecting 2 or more babies
  • having recently had a caesarean section
  • being immobile for long periods of time
  • smoking (find out how to stop smoking)
  • having severe varicose veins
  • dehydration

Low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) is usually used to treat pregnant women with DVT. LMWH is an anticoagulant, which means it prevents the blood clot getting bigger. It’s given by injection and doesn’t affect your developing baby.

Contraceptive pill and HRT

The combined contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) both contain the female hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen causes the blood to clot a bit more easily than normal, so your risk of getting DVT is slightly increased. There’s no increased risk from the progestogen-only contraceptive pill.

Other causes

Your risk of getting DVT is also increased if you or a close relative have previously had DVT and:

  • you’re overweight or obese
  • you smoke
  • you’re dehydrated
  • you’re over 60 – particularly if you have a condition that restricts your mobility

Deep vein thrombosis treatment

If you have deep vein thrombosis (DVT), you’ll need to take a medicine called an anticoagulant.


Anticoagulant medicines prevent blood clots getting bigger.  They can also help stop part of the blood clot breaking off and becoming lodged in another part of your bloodstream (an embolism).

Although they’re often referred to as “blood-thinning” medicines, anticoagulants don’t actually thin the blood. They alter proteins within it, which prevents clots forming so easily.

Heparin and warfarin are 2 types of anticoagulants that are used to treat DVT. Heparin is usually prescribed first because it works immediately to prevent further clotting. After this initial treatment, you may also need to take warfarin to prevent another blood clot forming.


Heparin is available in 2 different forms:

  • standard (unfractioned) heparin
  • low molecular weight heparin (LMWH)

Standard (unfractioned) heparin can be given as:

  • an intravenous injection – an injection straight into one of your veins
  • an intravenous infusion – where a continuous drip of heparin (via a pump) is fed through a narrow tube into a vein in your arm (this must be done in hospital)
  • a subcutaneous injection – an injection under your skin

LMWH is usually given as a subcutaneous injection.

The dose of standard (unfractionated) heparin to treat a blood clot varies significantly from person to person, so the dosage must be carefully monitored and adjusted if necessary. You may need to stay in hospital for 5 to 10 days and have frequent blood tests to ensure you receive the right dose.

LMWH works differently from standard heparin. It contains small molecules, which means its effects are more reliable and you won’t have to stay in hospital and be monitored.

Both standard heparin and LMWH can cause side effects, including:

  • a skin rash and other allergic reactions
  • bleeding 
  • weakening of the bones if taken for a long time (although rare with LMWH)

In rare cases, heparin can also cause an extreme reaction that makes existing blood clots worse and causes new clots to develop. This reaction, and weakening of your bones, is less likely to occur when taking LMWH.

In most cases, you’ll be given LMWH because it’s easier to use and causes fewer side effects.


Warfarin is taken as a tablet. You may need to take it after initial treatment with heparin to prevent further blood clots occurring. Your doctor may recommend that you take warfarin for 3 to 6 months. In some cases, it may need to be taken for longer, even for life.

As with standard heparin, the effects of warfarin vary from person to person. You’ll need to be closely monitored by having frequent blood tests to ensure you’re taking the right dosage.

When you first start taking warfarin, you may need to have 2 to 3 blood tests a week until your regular dose is decided. After this, you should only need to have a blood test every 4 weeks at an anticoagulant outpatient clinic.

Warfarin can be affected by your diet, any other medicines you’re taking, and by how well your liver is working.

If you’re taking warfarin you should:

  • keep your diet consistent
  • limit the amount of alcohol you drink (no more than 14 units of alcohol a week)
  • take your dose of warfarin at the same time every day
  • not start to take any other medicine without checking with your GP, pharmacist or anticoagulant specialist
  • not take herbal medicines

Warfarin isn’t recommended for pregnant women who are given heparin injections for the full length of treatment.


Rivaroxaban is a medication recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a possible treatment for adults with DVT, or to help prevent recurrent DVT and pulmonary embolism.

Rivaroxaban comes in tablet form. It’s a type of anticoagulant known as a directly acting oral anticoagulant (DOAC). It prevents blood clots forming by inhibiting a substance called factor Xa and restricting the formation of thrombin (an enzyme that helps blood clot).

Treatment usually lasts 3 months and involves taking rivaroxaban twice a day for the first 21 days and then once a day until the end of the course.

Read the NICE guidance about rivaroxaban


NICE also recommends apixaban as a possible method of treatment and prevention for DVT and pulmonary embolism.

Like rivaroxaban, apixaban is a DOAC that’s taken orally as a tablet, and prevents blood clots forming by hindering factor Xa and restricting the formation of thrombin.

Treatment usually lasts at least 3 months and involves taking apixaban twice a day.

Read the NICE guidance about apixaban

Compression stockings

Wearing compression stockings helps prevent calf pain and swelling, and lowers the risk of ulcers developing after having DVT.

They can also help prevent post-thrombotic syndrome. This is damage to leg tissue caused by the increase in venous pressure that occurs when a vein is blocked by a clot and blood is diverted to the outer veins.

After having DVT, stockings should be worn every day for at least 2 years. This is because symptoms of post-thrombotic syndrome may develop several months or even years after having a DVT.

Compression stockings should be fitted professionally and your prescription should be reviewed every 3 to 6 months. The stockings need to be worn all day but can be taken off before going to bed or in the evening while you rest with your leg raised. A spare pair of compression stockings should also be provided.


Your healthcare team will usually advise you to walk regularly once compression stockings have been prescribed. This can help prevent symptoms of DVT returning and may help to improve or prevent complications of DVT, such as post-thrombotic syndrome.

Raising your leg

As well as wearing compression stockings, you might be advised to raise your leg whenever you’re resting. This helps to relieve the pressure in the veins of the calf and stops blood and fluid pooling in the calf itself.

When raising your leg, make sure your foot is higher than your hip. This will help the returning blood flow from your calf. Putting a cushion underneath your leg while you’re lying down should help raise your leg above the level of your hip.

You can also slightly raise the end of your bed to ensure that your foot and calf are slightly higher than your hip.

Read more about preventing DVT

Inferior vena cava filters

Although anticoagulant medicines and compression stockings are usually the only treatments needed for DVT, inferior vena cava (IVC) filters may be used as an alternative. This is usually because anticoagulant treatment needs to be stopped, isn’t suitable, or isn’t working.

IVC filters are small mesh devices that can be placed in a vein. They trap large fragments of a blood clot and stop it travelling to the heart and lungs. They can be used to help prevent blood clots developing in the legs of people diagnosed with:

  • DVT
  • pulmonary embolism
  • multiple severe injuries

IVCs can be placed in the vein permanently, or newer types of filters can be placed temporarily and removed after the risk of a blood clot has decreased.

The procedure to insert an IVC filter is carried out using a local anaesthetic (where you’re awake but the area is numb). A small cut is made in the skin and a catheter (thin, flexible tube) is inserted into a vein in the neck or groin area. The catheter is guided using an ultrasound scan. The IVC filter is then inserted through the catheter and into the vein.

Complications of deep vein thrombosis

The 2 main complications of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are pulmonary embolism and post-thrombotic syndrome.

Pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism is the most serious complication of DVT. It happens when a piece of blood clot (DVT) breaks off and travels through your bloodstream to your lungs, where it blocks one of the blood vessels. In severe cases this can be fatal.

If the clot is small, it might not cause any symptoms. If it’s medium-sized, it can cause chest pain and breathing difficulties. A large clot can cause the lungs to collapse, resulting in heart failure, which can be fatal.

About one in 10 people with an untreated DVT develops a severe pulmonary embolism.

Post-thrombotic syndrome

If you’ve had a DVT, you may develop long-term symptoms in your calf known as post-thrombotic syndrome. This affects around 20-40% of people with a history of DVT.

If you have DVT, the blood clot in the vein of your calf can divert the flow of blood to other veins, causing an increase in pressure. This can affect the tissues of your calf and lead to symptoms, including:

  • calf pain
  • swelling
  • a rash 
  • ulcers on the calf (in severe cases) 

When a DVT develops in your thigh vein, there’s an increased risk of post-thrombotic syndrome occurring. It’s also more likely to occur if you’re overweight or if you’ve had more than one DVT in the same leg.

Deep vein thrombosis prevention

If you’re admitted to hospital or planning to go into hospital for surgery, your risk of developing a blood clot while you’re there will be assessed.

Surgery and some medical treatments can increase your risk of developing DVT – see causes of DVT for more information.

If you’re thought to be at risk of developing DVT, your healthcare team can take a number of measures to prevent a blood clot forming.

Before going into hospital

If you’re going into hospital to have an operation, and you’re taking the combined contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), you’ll be advised to temporarily stop taking your medication four weeks before your operation.

Similarly, if you’re taking medication to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin, you may be advised to stop taking it one week before your operation.

There’s less risk of getting DVT when having a local anaesthetic compared with a general anaesthetic.  Your doctor will discuss whether it’s possible for you to have a local anaesthetic.

While you’re in hospital

There are a number of things your healthcare team can do to help reduce your risk of getting DVT while you’re in hospital.

For example, they’ll make sure you have enough to drink so you don’t become dehydrated, and they’ll also encourage you to move around as soon as you’re able to.

Depending on your risk factors and individual circumstances, a number of different medications can be used to help prevent DVT. For example:

  • anticoagulant medicines – such as dabigatran etexilate or fondaparinux sodium, which are often used to help prevent blood clots after certain types of surgery, including orthopaedic surgery
  • low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) – often used in many cases to help prevent blood clots, including during and shortly after pregnancy
  • unfractionated heparin (UFH) – often used in people with severe kidney impairment or established kidney failure 

Compression stockings or compression devices are also commonly used to help keep the blood in your legs circulating.

Compression stockings are worn around your feet, lower legs and thighs, and fit tightly to encourage your blood to flow more quickly around your body.

Compression devices are inflatable and work in the same way as compression stockings, inflating at regular intervals to squeeze your legs and encourage blood flow.

Your healthcare team will usually advise you to walk regularly after you’ve been prescribed compression stockings. Keeping mobile can help prevent the symptoms of DVT returning and may help prevent or improve complications of DVT, such as post-thrombotic syndrome.

Read more about treating DVT

When you leave hospital

You may need to continue to take anticoagulant medicine and wear compression stockings when you leave hospital.

Before you leave, your healthcare team should advise you about how to use your treatment, how long to continue using it for, and who to contact if you experience any problems.

Lifestyle changes

You can reduce your risk of getting DVT by making changes to your lifestyle, such as:

  • not smoking
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • getting regular exercise 
  • maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you’re obese


See your GP before long-distance travel if you’re at risk of getting a DVT, or if you’ve had a DVT in the past.

If you’re planning a long-distance plane, train or car journey (journeys of six hours or more), make sure you:

  • drink plenty of water
  • avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol because it can cause dehydration
  • avoid taking sleeping pills because they can cause immobility
  • perform simple leg exercises, such as regularly flexing your ankles
  • take occasional short walks when possible – for example, during refuelling stopovers
  • wear elastic compression stockings

Read more about preventing DVT when you travel

Travel insurance

If you’re travelling abroad, it’s very important to ensure you’re prepared should you or a family member fall ill.

Make sure you have full travel insurance to cover the cost of any healthcare you may need while abroad. This is particularly important if you have a pre-existing medical condition, such as cancer or heart disease, which may increase your risk of developing DVT.

DVT can be a very serious condition, and it’s important you receive medical assistance as soon as possible. Treating DVT promptly will help minimise the risk of complications.

Signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis

  • July 13, 2021

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. Deep vein thrombosis can cause leg pain or swelling, but may be asymptomatic.

  • Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis
  • Causes of deep vein thrombosis
  • Risk factors
  • DVT complications
  • Prevention of thrombosis

DVT may be associated with diseases that affect the blood clotting process. A blood clot in your legs can also form if you don’t move for a long time, such as after surgery or an accident. But walking extremely long distances can lead to blood clots.

Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition because blood clots in your veins can travel through your bloodstream and get stuck in your lungs, blocking blood flow (pulmonary embolism). However, pulmonary embolism may occur without evidence of DVT.

When DVT and pulmonary embolism occur at the same time, it is called venous thromboembolism (VTE).


Signs and symptoms of DVT:

  • Swelling of the affected leg. In rare cases, swelling appears on both legs.
  • Pain in the leg. The pain often starts in the calf and may feel like spasms or soreness.
  • Red or discolored skin on the leg.
  • Sensation of warmth in the affected leg.

Deep vein thrombosis may occur without noticeable symptoms.

When to see a doctor

If you have signs or symptoms of DVT, see your doctor.

If you have signs or symptoms of pulmonary embolism (PE), a life-threatening complication of deep vein thrombosis, seek emergency medical attention.

Call 103

Warning signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort that is aggravated by taking a deep breath or coughing.
  • Feeling dizzy or dizzy or fainting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Fast breathing
  • Cough with blood

Suspect deep vein thrombosis? Contact the professionals.


Anything that interferes with the normal flow or clotting of blood can cause blood clots.

The main causes of DVT are damage to the vein from surgery or trauma, and inflammation from infection or trauma.

Risk factors

Many factors can increase the risk of developing DVT, which include:

  • Age. The risk of DVT increases at age 60, although it can occur at any age.
  • Sitting for long periods of time, such as while driving or flying. When your legs remain motionless for several hours, your calf muscles do not contract. Muscle contractions promote blood circulation.
  • Prolonged bed rest, such as during a long hospital stay or paralysis. Blood clots can form in the calves if the calf muscles are not used for a long time.
  • Injury or surgery. Injury to the veins or surgery may increase the risk of blood clots.
  • Pregnancy. Pregnancy increases pressure in the veins of the pelvis and legs. Women with an inherited bleeding disorder are at particular risk. The risk of blood clots as a result of pregnancy may remain up to six weeks after the baby is born.
  • Contraceptive pills (oral contraceptives) or hormone replacement therapy. Both factors can increase the ability of the blood to clot.
  • Exposure to drugs or chemicals. Certain drugs can cause blood clots. Before use, consult your doctor.
  • Overweight or obese. Excess weight increases pressure in the veins of the pelvis and legs.
  • Smoking. Smoking affects clotting and circulation, which may increase the risk of DVT.
  • Cancer. Some forms of cancer increase blood levels of substances that cause blood clotting. Some forms of cancer treatment also increase the risk of blood clots.
  • Heart failure. Increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Because people with heart failure have limited heart and lung function, symptoms caused by even a small pulmonary embolism are more noticeable.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease. Bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis increases the risk of DVT.
  • Personal or family history of DVT or PE. If you or someone in your family has had one or both of these, you may be at greater risk of developing DVT.
  • Genetics. Some people inherit genetic risk factors or disorders, such as factor V Leiden, that make their blood clot more easily. The hereditary disease itself may not cause blood clots unless it is combined with one or more other risk factors.
  • Risk factor unknown. Sometimes a blood clot in a vein can occur without an obvious underlying risk factor. This is called unprovoked VTE.


Complications of DVT may include:

  • Pulmonary embolism (PE). PE is a potentially life-threatening complication associated with DVT. This happens when a blood vessel in your lung is blocked by a clot that travels to your lung from another part of your body, usually your leg.
    If you have signs and symptoms of PE, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Sudden shortness of breath, chest pain when inhaling or coughing, rapid breathing, rapid pulse, feeling weak or faint, and coughing up blood can occur with PE.
  • Post-phlebitic syndrome. Damage to a vein by a thrombus reduces blood flow to the affected areas, causing leg pain and swelling, skin discoloration, and skin ulcers.
  • Complications of treatment. Complications may arise from blood thinners used to treat DVT. Bleeding is a side effect of anticoagulants. It is important to have regular blood tests while taking these medications.


Measures to prevent deep vein thrombosis include the following:

  • Don’t sit still. If you have had surgery or otherwise been on bed rest, try to get back to work as soon as possible. If you are sitting for a while, do not cross your legs as this can block blood flow. If you are traveling long distances by car, stop about every hour and take a walk.
    If you are on an airplane, stand or walk from time to time. If you can’t do this, stretch your shins. Do some exercises. Try raising and lowering your heels while keeping your toes on the floor, then lift your toes while resting your heels on the floor.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases the risk of developing DVT.
  • Exercise and control your weight. Obesity is a risk factor for DVT. Regular exercise reduces the risk of blood clots, which is especially important for people who sit a lot or travel frequently.

16 Department of Vascular Surgery

Updated by experts. Last edited: July 13, 2021

Deep vein thrombosis of the lower extremities Causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of deep vein thrombosis


  1. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – what is it?
  2. Deep vein thrombosis is dangerous!
  3. Deep vein thrombosis in varicose veins
  4. Deep vein thrombosis – causes of DVT
  5. Risk groups for deep vein thrombosis
  6. What are the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis
  7. Deep vein thrombosis – diagnostics
  8. Surgical treatments for deep vein thrombosis
  9. Deep vein thrombosis – treatment in Moscow
  10. Deep vein thrombosis – conservative treatment
  11. Deep vein thrombosis medical treatment
  12. Diet for deep vein thrombosis of the lower extremities
  13. Deep vein thrombosis – home treatment
  14. Prophylaxis of deep vein thrombosis of the lower extremities
  15. Deep vein thrombosis – testimonials from our patients
  16. Frequently asked questions of our patients on the Internet about deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – what is it?

Deep vein thrombosis is a disease in which blood clots (thrombi) form in the lumen of deep veins. The lower extremities are most commonly affected.

Mechanism of development of deep vein thrombosis

When the disease develops, the health of deep vessels is at risk. If timely treatment is not prescribed, there can be serious consequences.

Deep vein thrombosis is dangerous!

This is what thrombosis of the glomerular veins of the lower extremities looks like

Due to the formation of blood clots, the normal blood flow is disturbed, and this leads to blockage of blood vessels. With such disorders, tissue necrosis can occur in some areas of the body. In the worst case, the formed blood clots break off and enter the heart or lung. In such cases, due to thromboembolism of the lung artery, the person dies.

Deep vein thrombosis – wikipedia says…

DVT is considered a pathological condition characterized by the formation of blood clots in the deep vein cavity. This disease occurs in 10-20% of the total population. 3-15% of people who do not receive proper treatment die from pulmonary embolism.

Deep vein thrombosis in varicose veins

Deep vein thrombosis is a very common complication of varicose veins.

Deep vein thrombosis is often a complication of varicose veins

The severity of the disease will depend on the location of the thrombus and its size. If there is no complete blockage of the vessel, there may be no symptoms of the disease.

Deep vein thrombosis – the causes of DVT

Deep vein thrombosis most often occurs with a combination of several factors:

  • in violation of blood clotting;
  • when slowing blood flow;
  • in case of damage to the vascular walls.

There are risk factors that provoke the occurrence of thrombosis, these are:

  • advanced age;
  • smoking;
  • overweight;
  • use of certain drugs, including oral contraceptives;
  • pregnancy and childbirth;
  • sedentary lifestyle;
  • some operations;
  • injuries that damage blood vessels.

Risk groups for deep vein thrombosis

The risk group includes people who:

  • varicose vein transformation;
  • sedentary lifestyle;
  • operations were performed on the extremities, as well as in the pelvis and abdomen;
  • had leg bone fractures;
  • there are tumors in the abdominal cavity, pelvis and retroperitoneal space;
  • dyshormonal condition of the endocrine or reproductive system;
  • positional compression syndrome.

What symptoms develop with deep vein thrombosis

As a rule, symptoms do not appear immediately, only if the thrombus grows. If a clot breaks off, shortness of breath, chest pain, and hemoptysis may occur.

The development of the disease can be recognized by the following symptoms:

  • swelling of the legs;
  • bluish skin tone;
  • pain when walking.
The main symptom of deep vein thrombosis is leg pain!

If you have these signs, you most likely have deep vein thrombosis. Stages or variants of the course determine the method of treatment.

Deep vein thrombosis – diagnosis

The main method for diagnosing deep vein thrombosis today is ultrasound duplex scanning. With ultrasound, you can determine the location of the thrombus, its size, condition (it is attached to the walls of the vein or hangs in the lumen – floats).

Doctor Malakhov A.M. conducts ultrasound diagnostics of deep veins of the lower extremities

Also, phlebography and radionuclide scanning are prescribed to assess venous blood flow. The state of microcirculation is assessed based on the data of rheovasography.

Surgical treatment of deep vein thrombosis

If a patient has a severe form of thrombosis of the lower extremities, the most effective method of treatment is surgery – thrombolysis. A timely operation makes it possible to restore full blood flow, if the diagnosis is deep vein thrombosis. Only a timely intervention can completely cure the patient from this serious condition. Thrombolysis is performed only in stationary conditions and by very experienced endovascular surgeons. Treatment after surgery is also aimed at the same goal – the resorption of blood clots.

In addition to thrombolysis, there are two more surgical methods for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis – thrombectomy with angioplasty and installation of a cava filter for blood clots.

Surgical methods of treatment of deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis – treatment in Moscow

Modern Moscow medicine offers several methods of treating deep vein thrombosis, the use of which depends on the severity of the disease. In the early stages, thrombolytic drugs can be dispensed with if you have deep vein thrombosis. Treatment (Moscow is a city where there are world luminaries in phlebology) must be very qualified. In the later stages, such therapy is dangerous due to the possible separation of a blood clot and the occurrence of thromboembolism of the pulmonary artery. If severe circulatory disorders and deep vein thrombosis are observed, treatment is surgery (thrombectomy).

Deep vein thrombosis – conservative treatment

With conservative treatment, you can only stop or slow down the progression of the disease. Such therapy can also be prescribed in complex treatment.

Principles of conservative therapy:
  • compression therapy (elastic compression) – the result of such an impact is the exclusion of the mechanisms of progress of varicose veins, without such therapy, conservative treatment is impossible;
  • the required level of compression is achieved through the use of special knitwear (special medical device), in this case it is important to choose the right size of compression stockings;
  • compression hosiery is able to relieve swelling, pain and fatigue of the lower extremities;
  • the desired result is achieved with the constant application of elastic compression.

Deep vein thrombosis medical treatment

Course treatment with anticoagulants (drugs that prevent blood clotting) is implied. The average duration of such a course is at least 3 months, and sometimes longer. A combination of drugs that differ in the mechanism of action is envisaged. An important step in the medical treatment of DVT is the selection of blood-thinning drugs. To prevent complications from the gastrointestinal tract, some drugs are administered parenterally.

Pharmacotherapy is often done on an outpatient basis. In severe forms of the disease, patients who have suffered pulmonary embolism or vena cava thrombosis are annually hospitalized in a therapeutic or cardiology department for 2-3 weeks, where infusion hemorheological and cardiotonic therapy is performed.

Diet for deep vein thrombosis of the lower extremities

For vein thrombosis, a diet should be followed, excluding foods containing significant amounts of vitamin K and C from the diet. Moderate fluid intake is also recommended.

Eat foods that thin the blood, such as garlic, peppers and artichokes.

Deep vein thrombosis – treatment at home

Today, along with traditional methods of treating the disease, traditional medicine is practiced if deep vein thrombosis is diagnosed. Treatment with folk remedies is used as an addition to the main treatment.

The first thing to do is thin the blood. If you have deep vein thrombosis, traditional treatment includes the following foods:

  • onion and garlic;
  • sunflower seeds;
  • cocoa;
  • beets;
  • apple cider vinegar;
  • tomatoes or tomato juice;
  • hercules;
  • oatmeal;
  • cranberries;
  • oatmeal;
  • lemon;
  • cherries;
  • viburnum.

Blood thinning must be handled with care so as not to provoke bleeding. It is not recommended to consume fatty and meat products if deep vein thrombosis is present. Photos, results of improper treatment are available on the Internet.

One tablespoon of a mixture prepared from crushed garlic, two tablespoons of unrefined vegetable oil and one tablespoon of honey can be eaten daily.

Prevention of deep vein thrombosis of the lower extremities

Prevention of the disease is primarily aimed at eliminating the causes that cause the development of vascular diseases. Thus, you need to get rid of bad habits, reduce body weight, treat diabetes, lower blood cholesterol levels and move more. So it will be possible to defeat deep vein thrombosis of the lower extremities (diet, photo, results should be an incentive!).

Deep vein thrombosis – feedback from our patients.

Review of our patient about the treatment of deep vein thrombosis in the center “MIFTS”

Anita, 38 years old, Moscow.

I want to thank the staff of the clinic for their professionalism. With their help, I started to trust traditional medicine again. Before I went to the clinic, I had repeatedly undergone various medical procedures for deep vein thrombosis in my legs. At first, I had varicose veins with a complication, in which I had an operation to “suture the veins”. As a result, I practically became disabled. On the advice of my friends, I turned to the doctors of the MIFTs clinic, who returned me to a full life. It’s good that everything went without surgery. Anita, 38 years old, Moscow.

Patient’s feedback on the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis in our center

Andrey, 40 years old, Krasnogorsk.

Due to frequent stressful situations and bad habits, I developed problems with my legs, or rather, circulatory disorders. The legs often swelled, turned blue and sometimes hurt when walking. On the Internet, I accidentally saw an article about vein thrombosis, while the symptoms described coincided with my feelings. I was just recently advised by the phlebology clinic, and I decided to go for a consultation. Doctor Malakhov A.M. diagnosed with acute deep vein thrombosis. At first I was reassured and told that in this case, one cannot do without surgical intervention. Since there was no other way out, I agreed, and did not regret it. The operation in the vascular department of the city hospital, where I was urgently hospitalized, to remove the blood clot was successful and without complications. Now nothing threatens my life, thanks to the doctors of the “MIFTS” clinic for their professionalism and “human” attitude towards patients! Andrey, 40 years old, Moscow.

Frequently asked questions of our patients on the Internet about deep vein thrombosis

How to understand that there are blood clots in the veins?

Only a specialist, phlebologist or vascular surgeon can reliably understand that there are blood clots in the veins. And even a specialized specialist will need instrumental support, ultrasound examination of blood vessels. You can assume that you have blood clots in your veins by the following signs:

  • Edema.
  • Cyanosis of the skin.
  • Soreness, swelling of tissues, redness of the skin along the veins.
If there are blood clots in the veins, how to recognize them, symptoms and treatment?

Blood clots in veins can be identified by ultrasound duplex scanning. The following symptoms indicate the presence of blood clots in the veins: swelling, pain, discoloration of the limb. The best option for diagnosis, as well as subsequent treatment, is to contact a good phlebological center.

How to recognize a blood clot on the leg?

In order to recognize a blood clot on the leg, it is necessary to seek professional medical help. As an option, do an ultrasound examination of the vessels of the lower limb. The best solution would be to consult a narrow specialist, a phlebologist.

How to identify blood clots in the legs?

From the point of view of modern diagnostics, the best way to determine blood clots in the legs is an ultrasound examination of the vessels of the lower extremities.

Thrombus in a vein, how does it form?

A thrombus in a vein is formed as a result of a complex chain of biochemical reactions, during which a network of insoluble fibrin molecules is formed from fibrinogen molecules.