Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
What is that
Venous thrombosis is a condition in which a small amount of blood coagulates within a vein and adheres to its wall. As a result, the passage of blood through that vein is blocked, partially or completely. The formed clot is called thrombus.
There is talk of thrombophlebitis when the blood clot forms in the smaller veins just below the skin, or phlebothrombosis when the clot forms in the deep veins. The venues most affected by the formation of deep thrombi are the veins of the calf or thigh. The stimulus leading to the formation of the clot is usually represented by a change in the characteristics of the blood caused by surgery or trauma or an infection.
The risk increases when the blood tends to remain still in the legs, for example due to the presence of varicose veins (see the relative sheet) or after surgery or following a prolonged period in which you had to stay in bed.
Another condition that predisposes to the development of thrombosis is the intake of the birth control pill by women smokers.
How it manifests itself
A superficial thrombophlebitis is easily visible resembling a reddish cord and painful to the touch. In some cases it occurs on veins with varicose veins but can also affect normal veins of the lower limbs or arms.
Deep vein thrombosis may not cause symptoms, but when the blood flow is blocked it is easy to feel pain and swelling in the legs. Inflammation of the vein wall can cause the leg to become hot and red.
What are the risks
Superficial thrombophlebitis is not a dangerous condition and can resolve within a couple of weeks. Much more dangerous are the deep vein thrombosis, and in particular those of the thigh, since parts of the clot, called emboli, can detach from these, which obstruct the arteries of the lungs with serious consequences.
What should be done
- In the event of deep vein thrombosis, the doctor may prescribe drugs that interfere with blood clotting and that must be used exactly as directed by the doctor. In superficial thrombophlebitis it can be useful to take pain medications such as aspirin.
- Stay at rest keeping the leg raised for 1 or 2 days, but frequently moving the foot and ankle. Slowly resume normal activity after the leg begins to improve.
- Lukewarm compresses can be helpful in alleviating ailments.
- Do not sit or stand for long periods of time. If at some point it is inevitable to assume these positions, do a minimum of gymnastics in the legs by periodically contracting the calf and thigh muscles. Don’t sit cross-legged. Rest with your legs raised.
- Wear elastic stockings with gradual containment to prevent further episodes of venous thrombosis. The doctor will indicate the type that best suits your needs. Stockings should be worn in the morning before getting out of bed.
- Stop smoking, if you are a smoker: this advice is particularly valid for women who smoke and take birth control pills.
When to seek medical attention
- Venous thrombosis always requires evaluation by the doctor.
- It is necessary to contact the doctor immediately if new symptoms develop such as severe pain in the leg, shortness of breath, pain in the chest, high fever, cough with the presence of blood in the sputum.