DVT’s Bothersome Friend: Post-thrombotic Syndrome

deep vein thrombosisDeep vein thrombosis is a serious, vein-related condition and those of you who have been unfortunate enough to experience it know that it’s a long-distance run. Not only does the patient affected by DVT have to stay on blood-thinners for a long period of time, which is quite risky on its own to say the least, but very often DVT has life-long consequences, and the most usual one is post-thrombotic syndrome.

Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of your body, usually in lower extremities. The blood clot itself is not life-threatening, although it does become extremely painful the longer it blocks healthy blood circulation and affects vein valves. The problem is that when a blood clot forms in deep veins, it can break off and travel towards the lungs, where it blocks the blood flow and can potentially be fatal. Varicose veins are not a direct cause of deep vein thrombosis, but they are always related to some sort of venous insufficiency and poor blood circulation, both of which the contributing factors in the development of DVT.

Almost 1 million people in the US can be affected by DVT every year and up to 60% of DVT patients will experience a condition called post-thrombotic syndrome. That means for half of people who already had to deal with DVT, the nightmare will never be over for the rest of their lives. Post-thrombotic syndrome, also known as venous stress disorder or postphlebitic syndrome, is a long-term complication of DVT and its symptoms include:

  • Aching, cramping and pain in legs
  • Heaviness and swelling
  • Tingling or itching in legs
  • Skin discoloration
  • Varicose veins
  • Leg ulcers

The cause of post-thrombotic syndrome is not entirely clear, but most likely it is the combination of damaged vein valves (from the blood clot) and severe inflammation during DVT. Each patient is different and the gravity of symptoms varies. Unfortunately, the tendency is that they will get worse with increasing age. Treatment of post-thrombotic syndrome involves frequent leg elevation, wearing compression hosiery, doing appropriate exercise and in general, living a healthy lifestyle with balanced diet, proper weight and lots of hydration.

elevated legsCompression stocking

Tired legs

Post-thrombotic syndrome is chronic which means that there is no cure and the majority of patients will have to put up with it for the rest of their lives. You can still do many things to slow down the process of aggravation and avoid such condition as varicose veins and leg ulcers as long as possible. If post-thrombotic syndrome might be your issue, it is advisable to have your legs and veins thoroughly examined by a medical professional.