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What Is the Difference Between a Blood Clot and Deep Vein Thrombosis?

A blood clot (thrombus) is a gel-like clump of blood cells that naturally forms after an injury, such as a cut or laceration, to help control the bleeding by sealing the damaged blood vessel. Certain factors can increase the risk of thrombus, including prolonged immobility, smoking, taking birth control pills, and certain medical conditions, such as obesity, lupus, and cancer. Blood clots can develop anywhere in the body, including veins and arteries. Usually, the clots gradually dissolve on their own over several weeks or months and do not cause problems.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a specific type of blood clot that forms in a vein deep within the body. In most cases, DVT affects a large vein in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis. The condition is potentially dangerous because it can block the flow of blood through the affected vein. For instance, DVT in a leg vein can damage the one-way valves inside the vein and cause chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), which can increase blood pressure in the leg and slow blood flow to the heart. CVI can also lead to the development of varicose veins and skin ulcers. Additionally, a blood clot that dislodges and travels through the bloodstream can cause life-threatening complications, such as a stroke if it reaches the brain or a pulmonary embolism if it reaches the lungs.

What Are the Warning Signs of DVT?

In some cases, deep vein thrombosis is silent; in others, it causes noticeable and uncomfortable symptoms, such as:

  • Throbbing or cramping pain
  • Swelling
  • Skin warmth
  • Skin redness or darkening
  • Visible veins that are tender and hard to the touch

The Link Between DVT and Varicose Veins

Unlike DVT, which affects deep blood vessels, varicose veins are surface blood vessels that have become visibly enlarged or misshapen. If the valves in a vein become weakened or damaged, blood flowing toward the heart may collect in the vein. In addition to increasing blood pressure in the vein, the pooling blood can cause the vein to stretch, bulge, twist, and darken in color, creating the hallmark appearance of a varicose vein. Although they are usually not serious, varicose veins can be uncomfortable and noticeable.

Deep vein thrombosis is a potentially serious medical condition that can also cause or worsen varicose veins. However, recent studies suggest that varicose veins may also be a risk factor for DVT. For this reason, it is important to have varicose veins evaluated by a vascular specialist and also to seek immediate medical attention for DVT symptoms.

See a Vascular Specialist

If you would like to have your DVT symptoms or varicose veins evaluated by an experienced vascular specialist in Tampa, FL, contact Vein911® Vein Treatment Center today to schedule an appointment. We offer state-of-the-art diagnostic techniques and FDA-approved treatments for vein disease. After performing a thorough evaluation that may include duplex ultrasound imaging, your vein doctor at Vein911® can determine if you are at risk for DVT, provide an accurate diagnosis, and suggest a personalized treatment plan if needed.