If you're over 60, you smoke, you're overweight, or you sit for long periods of time, your risk for the condition is higher, so stay alert for signs of a problem. Talk to your doctor right away if you think you might have DVT.
Symptoms of DVT
Call your doctor's office right away if you have any of these symptoms, especially if they appear suddenly:
- Swelling in one or both legs
- Pain or tenderness in one or both legs, even if it's just when you stand or walk
- Warm skin on your leg
- Red or discolored skin on your leg
- Veins that are swollen, red, hard, or tender to the touch you can see
Call 911 or go to an emergency room right away if you notice leg pain or swelling and:
- Sudden coughing, which may bring up blood
- Sharp chest pain or chest tightness
- Pain in your shoulder, arm, back, or jaw
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain when you breathe
- Severe lightheadedness
- Fast heartbeat
Diagnosis and Tests
Your doctor will ask about your health, medical history, and symptoms, and she'll do a physical exam. The doctor will decide if you have a low or high risk of DVT. This will help her decide which tests to do. You may also need to have tests to rule out other problems or to confirm the diagnosis.
D-dimer test. It looks for D-dimer, a protein that shows up in your blood when a clot starts to break down. If you have a clot, levels will be high.
Duplex ultrasound. This test doesn't hurt, it doesn't put anything inside your body, and there's no radiation like with an X-ray. The technician spreads warm gel on your skin and then rubs a wand over the area where he thinks the clot could be. The wand sends sound waves into your body and relays the echoes to a computer, which makes pictures of your blood vessels and sometimes the blood clots. A radiologist or someone who is specially trained has to look at the images to explain what's going on.
This test isn't so good for finding blood clots very deep inside the body, such as in your pelvis.
Venography. This is a special X-ray. The doctor injects a radioactive dye into a vein on the top of your foot to help him see your veins and maybe a clot.
It's more accurate than an ultrasound, but there's a slight chance it will cause more blood clots.
Magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI ). You lie still on a sliding table while radio waves and a strong magnetic field make detailed pictures of the inside of your body on a computer. (You'll hear loud tapping or knocking sounds during the test.) You might need to get a shot to make your blood vessels show up better.
This can find DVT in your pelvis and thigh. And your doctor can look at both legs at once. MRI is much more expensive than other tests, though.