What Causes Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?

Generally speaking, DVT causes can be both genetic and behavioral.

Having a family history of parents or siblings suffering from blood clots can increase your own DVT risk. An undiagnosed clotting disorder can put you at risk of DVT, as well. Behavior-related causes of DVT include smoking and obesity.

Other contributing DVT causes include:

  • Surgery or traumatic injury
  • Cancers and their treatments, both of which may adversely affect the blood’s ability to clot
  • Other serious illness, such as congestive heart failure, heart attack, stroke or sepsis
  • Varicose veins
  • Pregnancy
  • Contraceptives/estrogen therapy; this risk especially increases in smokers

In terms of events that may “trigger” the condition, specific DVT causes revolve around extended sedentary behavior. When we’re healthy, our muscles help our blood keep moving. But when we’re not moving around, blood tends to pool and clot at the lowest part of the body.

Prolonged bed rest due to illness—and recovery from surgery or trauma—are common causes of DVT. Likewise, sitting on an airplane for six or more hours without moving around is one of the leading causes of deep vein thrombosis. For this reason, DVT is sometimes referred to as “economy class syndrome.”

People who have had injury to their veins—due to trauma, athletic accidents or surgery—also face higher DVT risk.

What makes deep vein thrombosis especially dangerous?

There are two main concerns.

If untreated, a piece of a deep-vein blood clot can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing pulmonary embolism—a potentially life-threatening event that affects approximately 60,000 Americans annually. The primary treatment to prevent this is anticoagulation: the administration of blood-thinning medication such as lovenox, a shot, and coumadin, a pill. Anticoagulation generally prevents the clot from moving to the lungs.

However, there is a second reason to be wary of DVT. Even with anticoagulation, there can be long term consequences, namely something called post-thrombotic syndrome, which results in pain and swelling for the rest of a patient’s life.

Our goal here at VIP in treating DVT actively and aggressively is to prevent post-thrombotic syndrome.