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4 Subtle Signs of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) You Need to Know

 4 Subtle Signs of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) You Need to Know

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a complication of broader circulatory system problems that occur in the deep veins of your legs. If you’re dealing with any stage of vein disease, it puts you at risk of developing this potentially life-threatening condition. 

However, understanding the signs of DVT, including the more subtle ones, will help you know when to seek medical treatment.

At Heart Vascular & Leg Center in Bakersfield, California, our team of board-certified vascular specialists understands how serious deep vein thrombosis can be. That’s why we offer our patients the latest diagnostic and treatment options. Here’s what you need to know about DVT and the signs it can produce.

Vein disease basics

Vein disease is a progressive circulatory system condition that affects the vessels returning blood to the heart. In this closed loop, the arteries transport oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body, while the veins transport deoxygenated blood from the body back to the lungs and heart. 

The difficulty is that veins, especially those in the lower legs, must transport blood against the pull of gravity the entire way.

Your body addresses this in two ways:

  1. Calf and thigh muscles contract in sequence, pushing the blood upward
  2. One-way valves inside the veins close once blood moves by, preventing backflow


Valves are delicate contraptions that can become damaged either due to injury or, more often, high blood pressure. When the valves don’t close completely, the blood backtracks along its path and pools around the damaged area, making flow sluggish. The decreased blood flow condition, called venous insufficiency (VI), can progress to long-term chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).

One of CVI’s most noticeable symptoms is the twisted, ropy, colored swellings on the calves and thighs — varicose veins.

The dangers of DVT

Varicose veins are noticeable because they involve superficial veins (close to the skin's surface) filled with stagnant blood. If you don’t address the underlying vein problem, symptoms can move into the deep veins of your leg tissue.

Sluggish blood tends to clot or form a mass. If a clot (thrombus) forms in a deep vein, it 1) further slows blood flow and 2) can block flow completely — deep vein thrombosis.

DVT isn’t the only cause of clot formation, but it’s a prominent one. Clots can also form if the veins narrow due to plaque build-up (atherosclerosis); if you sit for long periods, which interferes with proper circulation; or if you’re on extended bed rest.

While interfering with blood flow is serious on its own, the greater danger of DVT is when a clot breaks free, in whole or in part, from the vein wall. Now mobile, it travels with the blood to the lungs. If it lodges in an airway, it causes a pulmonary embolism (PE), a life-threatening condition.

4 subtle signs of DVT and more

According to the CDC, DVT only produces symptoms in about 50% of people who develop it. Knowing the signs, including subtle ones, can lead you to get medical help sooner rather than later. Signs to watch for include:

  1. Muscle cramping
  2. Severe pain near the blocked vein
  3. Warm, tender skin over the vein
  4. Pale blue or red skin over the vein

Signs that the clot has triggered a PE include:

If you develop any symptoms of a PE, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room!

Treating DVT

The sooner you get medical help for DVT, the sooner you can regain your vein health.

At Heart Vascular & Leg Center, we develop a treatment plan after taking a complete medical history, performing a physical exam, and ordering any necessary testing, like a vascular ultrasound. Our goals for treatment are to prevent the clot from getting larger and to ensure it doesn’t break free. Treatment may include any combination of:

Our specialists also perform thrombectomies, surgical procedures that remove a blood clot from a vein and restore normal flow.

Are you experiencing any of the signs of DVT, subtle or not? If so, it’s time to schedule an evaluation with one of our vascular specialists at Heart Vascular & Leg Center. Call our office at 661-443-5524 to schedule an appointment, or book online today.

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