Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot (usually in a leg) that needs to be treated by a GP as soon as possible.

Get an urgent GP appointment if you have DVT symptoms:

  • swelling and pain in the leg like throbbing or cramping - usually in the calf
  • more pain when you flex your foot
  • warm, red and tender skin - often on the back of the leg below the knee

The pain is usually only in one leg.

DVT is serious and needs to be treated by a GP. They’ll refer you to hospital if needed.

What DVT can look like when your leg is swollen

Call 999 or go to A&E if you have DVT symptoms with breathlessness and chest pain.

How DVT is diagnosed

Your GP might be able to tell from your symptoms if you have DVT. Sometimes they’ll book an ultrasound scan, x-ray or blood test at the hospital to confirm their diagnosis.

Treatment from a GP

Your GP may prescribe medicine called anticoagulants. They stop the blood clot from getting bigger or travelling to other parts of your body (like the lungs or heart).

You’ll have to go for check-ups while you’re on the medicine so your GP can make sure it’s working.

Sometimes your GP might prescribe compression stockings if they think they will help. However, there's no evidence that compression stockings will prevent another DVT or prevent you from getting post-thrombotic syndrome.

Ask your GP if it’s safe to go on flights or car trips longer than 6 hours.

Treatment in hospital

If medicine isn’t working you might need an operation where a small mesh filter is put in your vein. This stops the blood clot from travelling to the lungs or the heart.

You'll have:

  • local anaesthetic
  • hospital stay - a few days
  • recovery time - a few weeks

How you can help your recovery

You should:

  • do the exercises the GP gives you
  • raise your leg higher than your hip whenever you’re resting - stops the blood from collecting in your calf

How to prevent DVT

You can lower the risk of getting DVT by doing and avoiding certain things.

Do

Don't

  • smoke
  • drink alcohol or take sleeping pills on long flights or drives

DVT is often caused when you can’t move around enough. For example, after an operation or during a long journey.

When you’re pregnant your risk of DVT is also higher. You should stay as active as possible and follow the advice on preventing DVT.

Taking the combined contraceptive pill or having hormone replacement therapy can also increase the risk of DVT.

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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