Common problems after deep vein thrombosis

New guidelines to help prevent, treat post thrombotic syndrome in patients

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States, between 300,000 and 600,000 people are affected by deep vein thrombosis, or DVT,  a blood clot that develops deep in the body, most often in the leg, thigh or pelvis. Of those, nearly one-third will suffer from long-term complications due to damage that the clot caused in the vein, a condition called post thrombotic syndrome, or PTS.

Dr. Natalie Evans, a vein expert at Cleveland Clinic, says symptoms vary from one person to another.

"They may have a bout of swelling of the leg for a couple of days and then it resolves.  They may have pain in the calf or the thigh and then they may notice their leg looks more red than the other leg, or they may notice bulging veins in that leg that weren't there before," said Evans.

Evans says PTS is underdiagnosed and may also cause a burning or bursting sensation, itching, cramping or heaviness in the legs. In fact, PTS is so common after deep vein thrombosis that the American Heart Association recently released guidelines for doctors on how to best prevent and treat it.

Evans, who helped create the guidelines, says preventing deep vein thrombosis in the first place is key, along with adherence to blood thinner therapy in those diagnosed with DVT. 

"It's really important that they take their medication religiously and that it's well monitored," Evans said.

PTS symptoms often reduce someone's productivity and quality of life. So, if you've already had deep vein thrombosis and think you might have PTS, it's important to tell your doctor.

"For people who've been diagnosed with D-V-T who are having chronic symptoms to know that this is a real thing and something that should be called to the attention of their care provider so we can do things to help treat them," said Evans.

She adds that compression stockings might be helpful for people with PTS to reduce leg swelling. Studies have also shown that exercise may help relieve symptoms. Complete AHA guidelines can be found in the journal Circulation.