What Causes Leg DVT Pain?

Pain and swelling are two of the first symptoms people notice when they develop a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in the leg.  DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein located deep inside the body, usually in the legs. 

Man holding leg from DVT pain

DVT can cause a range of complications, including pain, swelling, and even pulmonary embolism. Inflammation surrounding the clot is a common factor that contributes to pain and other complications after DVT. In this blog post, we will explore why the leg aches and swells with DVT.


Why Do Leg DVTs Hurt?

When a blood clot forms in a vein, it can block blood flow and cause the affected area to become inflamed. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and it is intended to protect and heal the affected area. 

However, inflammation can also cause pain and swelling, especially if it persists over time.  This is because after a DVT, inflammation can occur in the veins and the surrounding tissue. The inflammation can cause the veins to become swollen and tender, making it painful to touch or move the affected area. 

The inflammation can also lead to stiffness and restricted movement, making it difficult to perform daily activities. This is because the hallmarks of inflammation are pain, swelling, redness and loss of function. 


Other Complications from DVT Inflammation

In addition to pain, inflammation can also cause other complications after DVT. Long term, the inflamed veins may become narrowed, leading to decreased blood flow and an increased risk of developing another blood clot. The inflammation can also damage the valves in the veins, leading to chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and the development of varicose veins.


DVT Pain Management

To manage inflammation and pain after a DVT, there are several treatment options available.  

By reducing the burden of clot, anti coagulants reduce inflammation.  In some cases anti inflammatory medications can help (either by mouth or typical). However, it is not generally recommended to take both anti inflammatory medications (such as Ibuprofen or Alieve) with anticoagulant medications (like Xarelto.or Eliquis). It is important to seek guidance from your treating medical provider about this before you take both.

Compression stockings can also help to reduce swelling and improve blood flow. In some cases, physical therapy may be recommended to help reduce inflammation and improve mobility.  

The good news is once the inflammation is reduced, so will the pain and acute swelling generally. If swelling persists, this is a good reason to seek the opinion of a vein specialist as persistent long term swelling can be a sign of possibly treatable chronic venous insufficiency. 

In conclusion, inflammation around the clotted veins can lead to pain and swelling after a DVT. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of DVT, such as pain, swelling, or redness in the affected area. Early treatment can help to manage the pain and swelling related to the inflammation and reduce the risks of long term post thrombotic complications.

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