Danger! Deep Vein Thrombosis
Randy Fenninger, 68, knows how scary DVT can be. In 2002, the Vienna, VA, resident flew to Chicago in the morning. He spent all day at a desk and in meetings. He flew back home that night.
Before long, Fenninger felt severe pain in his upper chest, shoulders, and neck. “Every time I took a breath it felt like someone stuck a knife into my lungs,” he says.
He went to the ER. Doctors found that he had multiple blood clots in each lung due to DVT. “I don’t know how long the clot was there, but I didn’t have any symptoms in my leg.”
Like Fenninger, many people with DVT don’t feel any of those symptoms. Only about half of people with the condition notice warning signs that occur in the leg and include:
“The hallmark of DVT is that these symptoms occur in only one leg,” says Lawrence Mueller, MD, a vascular surgeon at Garden State Vein Care. “Heart problems and liver or kidney disease can cause similar symptoms, but they affect both legs.”
They may happen suddenly or develop slowly over time, Ansell says.
A blood clot that starts in your leg can travel to your lungs, and the result could be fatal. Call 911 right away of you have any of these symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Painful breathing
Coughing up blood
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
Both DVT and pulmonary embolisms are medical emergencies. Quick treatment can save your life.
Life After DVT
Even with treatment, about 30% of people who have deep vein thrombosis experience long-term effects. This is called post-thrombotic syndrome. It happens when the blood clot damages valves in your vein where the blood clot happened.
These are some symptoms of post-thrombotic syndrome:
- Discoloration of the skin
- Ulcers in the part of the body affected
Today, Fenninger lives with many of these symptoms. “I experience swelling in my ankles and discoloration of my skin. It sometimes looks like my lower ankles are rust-colored because of blood pooling in the veins.”