Anticoagulant medicines are the standard treatment for DVT. They change chemicals in your blood to stop clots forming so easily. Anticoagulants include heparin and warfarin. Anticoagulants can stop new blood clots from forming and old ones from getting any bigger. They can't dissolve clots that you already have - your body will do that itself over time.
Thrombolytic medicines are medicines that work by dissolving blood clots; but they can cause bleeding and so are rarely used to treat DVT.
These are also called graduated compression stockings. Your doctor may ask you to wear these to ease your pain and reduce swelling, and to prevent post-thrombotic syndrome. You may need to wear them for two years or more after having a DVT.
Availability and use of different treatments may vary from country to country. Ask your doctor for advice on your treatment options.
Prevention of DVT
Ask a doctor for advice if you think you're at risk of developing a DVT.
There are a number of things you may be able to do to reduce your risk, such as stopping smoking if you smoke, or losing weight if you're overweight. Regular walking can help to improve the blood circulation in your legs and help to prevent another DVT from developing.
There is no good evidence that taking aspirin reduces your risk of developing DVT.
If you're having surgery
Surgery and some medical treatments can increase your risk of developing DVT. So, if you're going to hospital for an operation, you may have an assessment to check your risk of developing DVT before you have your operation. There are many things that can be done to keep your risk of developing DVT during surgery as low as possible. You may be given anticoagulant medicines before and after surgery, or be asked to wear compression stockings. You may also be given a mechanical pump to use on your feet and legs in the first few days after the operation. This is called an intermittent compression device. The pump automatically squeezes your feet and lower legs to help your blood circulate.
If you're travelling
Although it's unlikely that you will develop DVT when you're travelling, there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing a blood clot. These include:
If a doctor has told you that you're at high risk for DVT (for example, if you have a previous history of DVT or a blood clotting disorder), you may need heparin injections as well for flights longer than four hours. Talk to a doctor for more information.
- take short walks - if you're a passenger, walk up and down the aisle of the coach, train or plane
- exercise the muscles of your lower legs, which act as a pump for the blood in your veins - regularly bend and straighten your toes, ankles and legs
- wear loose-fitting clothes
- keep hydrated by making sure you drink enough water
- don't drink too much alcohol or too many drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee
- don't take sleeping tablets, as these will stop you keeping your legs active
- wear compression stockings if you have other risk factors for DVT
If you develop swelling or pain in your calf or thigh, or if you have breathing problems or chest pain after travelling, you should seek urgent medical attention.