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About Deep Vein Throbosis (DVT) And Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

Blood clots occur when blood thickens and clumps together.

Most deep vein blood clots occur in the lower leg or thigh but they also can occur in other parts of the body. Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. A blood clot in a deep vein can break off and travel through the bloodstream. The loose clot is called an embolus.

When a loose blood clot travel to an artery in the lungs and blocks blood flow, the result condition — called a pulmonary embolism (PE) — is serious. It can damage the lungs and other organs in the body and possibly result in death. Blood clots in the thighs are more likely to break off and cause pulmonary embolism than blood clots in the lower legs or other parts of the body. While blood clots can also form in veins closer to the skin’s surface, these clots won’t break off and cause PE.

How do blood clots form?

Blood clots can form in your body’s deep veins if:

  • A vein’s inner lining is damaged. Injuries caused by physical, chemical or biological factors can damage the veins. Such factors include surgery, serious injuries, inflammation and immune responses.
  • Blood flow is sluggish or slow. Lack of motion can cause sluggish or slow blood flow. This may occur after surgery, if you’re ill and in bed for a long time, or if you’re traveling for a long time.
  • Your blood is thicker or more likely to clot than normal. Some inherited conditions (such as factor V Leiden) increase the risk of blood clotting. Hormone therapy or birth control pills also can increase the risk of clotting.

What are the symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Only about half of the people who have DVT have signs and symptoms. If you do have symptoms, the symptoms occur in the leg affected by the deep vein clot and may include:

  • Swelling of the leg or along a vein in the leg
  • Pain or tenderness in the leg, which you may feel only when standing or walking
  • Increased warmth in the area of the leg that’s swollen or painful
  • Red or discolored skin on the leg

What are the risk factors for Deep Vein Thrombosis?

The likelihood of deep vein thrombosis increases if you have more than one of these risk factors:

  • Personal or family history of deep vein thrombosis.
  • Conditions or factors that make your blood thicker or more likely to clot than normal. Some inherited blood disorders (such as factor V Leiden) will do this. Hormone therapy or birth control pills also increase the risk of clotting
  • Injury to a deep vein from surgery, a broken bone, or other trauma
  • Slow blood flow in a deep vein due to lack of movement. This may occur after surgery, if you’re ill and in bed for a long time, or if you’re traveling for a long time
  • Pregnancy and the first 6 weeks after giving birth
  • Recent or ongoing cancer treatment
  • A central venous catheter. This is a tube placed in a vein to allow easy access to the bloodstream for medical treatment
  • Age: being older than 60 is a risk factor for DVT, although DVT can occur at any age
  • Overweight or obesity.
  • Smoking

What are the symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism (PE)?

Some people aren’t aware of a deep vein clot until they have signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Pain with deep breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Rapid breathing and a fast heart rate
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