lood clots. That’s a good thing when
you cut yourself, but blood can also
clot inside the blood vessels, and
that can cause serious, sometimes
devastating, health problems.
Blood clots form when something
slows or changes the flow of blood
in the veins. A stationary blood clot that forms in one part
of the body is a thrombus, then if it moves through the
bloodstream until it lodges in a narrow vessel and blocks
the flow of blood, is called an embolus. An embolus in a
coronary artery can cause a heart attack, in a cerebral artery,
it can cause a stroke.
When these blood clots form in the veins it is called
venous thromboembolism (VTE). There are two related,
and potentially life-threatening, conditions that come under
the category of VTE, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and
pulmonary embolism (PE). When they occur, they demand
immediate medical attention.
DVT and PE
Deep vein thrombosis affects up to 2 million people
in the U.S. and happens when a clot forms in a vein deep
in the body, as opposed to a vein that runs close to the
DVT usually occurs in the leg, mainly affecting the large
veins in the calf and thigh, usually on one side, not both.
About half of people experiencing DVT don’t show outward
signs or symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they show up
in the leg that has a clot.
Pulmonary embolism occurs when a clot due to DVT
makes its way into a lung artery causing a blockage that can
permanently injure the affected lung, lowering the blood’s
oxygen level and potentially damaging other organs by
starving them of oxygen. Blood clots that travel to the lungs
are more likely to have formed and broken away in the thigh
rather than in the lower leg or other parts of the body.
About half of people experiencing DVT or PE will not
exhibit symptoms. When symptoms of DVT do show up,
they may include:
• Changes in skin color (redness)
• Leg pain or tenderness, especially in the calf
• Leg swelling (edema)
• Skin that feels warm to the touch
Symptoms that may present for PE include unexplained
shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest pain (may be
worse upon deep breath), rapid heart rate, lightheadedness/
passing out or coughing up blood.
Get medical attention immediately if you have these
signs or symptoms. DVT and PE are serious, potentially
life-threatening conditions that demand treatment to prevent
UNDERSTANDING THE CAUSES
AND RISKS OF VENOUS
By Jon Caswell | Adapted in part from Heart.org