Doctors have several ways to treat a deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). The most common treatment is a drug called a blood thinner. Blood thinners are also called anticoagulants.
These drugs stop the clot from getting bigger. They also help prevent it from breaking off and moving to the lungs. And they prevent other clots from forming.
Blood thinners don’t break down the clot itself. The body does that over time.
The first blood thinner is usually given as a shot because shots work faster. While some people, including pregnant women, will continue the blood thinner shots at home, you’ll probably take a blood thinner pill instead.
Many doctors prescribe a blood thinner called warfarin because it’s much less expensive and doctors have used it for a long time. But it requires frequent blood tests to make sure the dose is correct. Warfarin also interacts with many foods and medicines.
If you take a newer blood thinner, you will not need frequent blood tests. Plus, the newer medicines don't interact with foods. Newer blood thinners include Eliquis, Pradaxa, and Xarelto.
One of the biggest concerns with blood thinners is the risk of bleeding. Even a minor cut may bleed a lot. Always be sure to call your doctor if any bleeding doesn’t stop. There is also the concern of more serious bleeding from an injury. If you fall or hit your head, it’s a good idea to call your doctor.
You will take the blood thinner for 3 months or more at home. Some people need to take it for much longer, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
Besides blood thinners, doctors may tell you to wear compression stockings. These stockings go from the arch of your foot to just above or below your knee. They can relieve the pain and swelling in the legs, and they help prevent more clots.
There are three types of compression stockings:
- Support pantyhose: These offer the least amount of pressure.
- Over-the-counter compression hose: They offer a bit more pressure.
- Prescription-strength compression hose: These offer the most pressure. You must be fitted for them.
You may need to wear stockings for two years or more after having DVT. Ask your doctor.
Vena Cava Filters
If blood thinners don't stop a clot from growing or you can’t take blood thinners, a doctor can insert a vena cava filter. It’s inserted in the large vein in your abdomen to a catch blood clot before it travels to your lungs.
The filter looks like a tiny mesh umbrella that lets blood flow through, but it stops clots and clot pieces.
Along with wearing compression socks, there are some things you can do to prevent DVTs, such as:
- Lose weight, if needed.
- Quit smoking.
- If you sit for a long time, such as on a plane, try to get up and walk around every hour or two.
- If you sit and can't walk around, flex your calf muscles and lower legs to keep your circulation going.