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Deep Vein Thrombosis

What Are The Signs And Symptoms?

Last modified: 
14/06/2012 - 13:03

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Only 40 to 50 percent of people with DVT have obvious signs and symptoms of DVT, and the condition often goes unrecognized.

When they do occur, signs and symptoms vary depending on the severity of the condition.

DVT may cause pain and swelling in one or both legs, or less commonly, in an arm. There may also be tenderness in the affected area, and an increase in skin temperature (compared to the unaffected limb).

Signs and symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include:

  • Pain in the leg
  • Tenderness in the calf (this is one of the most important signs)
  • Leg tenderness
  • Swelling of the leg
  • Increased warmth of the leg
  • Redness in the leg
  • Bluish skin discoloration
  • Discomfort when the foot is pulled upward

With DVT high up in the leg (ileofemoral vein), superficial veins may become visible over the thigh and hip areas as well as over the lower abdomen.

Nice To Know:

Swelling in one leg following childbirth was, for centuries, called "milk leg," because the swelling was believed to be caused by milk retained by mothers who did not nurse. Others thought it was due to infection or the blockage of lymph nodes. Eventually, investigations performed in the early part of the 1800s showed that the swelling was due to thrombosis in deep veins of the thigh. Today, this type of deep vein thrombosis following pregnancy, in which the painfully swollen leg appears pale in color, is called phlegmasia alba dolens.

Conditions That May Cause Similar Symptoms

There are a number of different conditions that can cause signs and symptoms similar to deep vein thrombosis. These include:

  • Muscle aches and tears
  • Superficial thrombophlebitis - a blood clot that forms in an inflamed part of a vein near the surface of the body (i.e., not a deep vein)
  • Varicose veins - blood vessels that are abnormally swollen and twisted
  • Blood clots in arteries
  • Arthritis
  • Cellulitis - an infection in tissue under the skin
  • Bone fracture
  • Lymphedema - swelling in the hands and feet caused by excess fluid retention
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Deep Vein Thrombosis

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.