About Blood Clots

Anyone can develop a blood clot. Blood clots that form in the deep veins of the leg (or arm) are called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. If a DVT is left untreated it can break apart and travel to the lung, called a pulmonary embolism or PE, and can create a life-threatening situation. These conditions together are known as venous thromboembolism (VTE), which affects about 900,000 people in the United States each year. As many as 100,000 people die each year due to blood clots. Despite these facts, many people don’t know their risks for blood clots or the signs and symptoms of blood clots.

Did you know?

  • Blood clots have ranked as high as third in mortality rates following heart disease and cancer.
  • Sudden death is the first symptom in about one-quarter (25%) of people who have a PE.
  • One-third (about 33%) of people with DVT/PE will have a recurrence within 10 years.
  • Learning the signs, symptoms, and risks for blood clots saves lives. 

Blood clots can be life-changing. While most people make a full recovery from blood clots, some people face long-term complications. Among people who have had a DVT, one third to one half will have long-term complications (post-thrombotic syndrome or PTS) such as swelling, pain, discoloration, and scaling in the affected limb.

Blood clots are dangerous, but they are also preventable. Know your risk and be able to recognize signs and symptoms.

Blood clots can happen to anyone, so it’s important to know your risk and know how to prevent blood clots. Major blood clot risk factors include: a personal or family history of blood clots; surgery or hospitalization; an inherited or acquired blood clotting condition; cancer or treatments for cancer; immobility (such as bed rest or a long plane ride without moving); pregnancy and childbirth; or estrogen-based birth control pills and estrogen for the treatment of menopause symptoms.

Recognizing blood clot symptoms can help save lives.

DVT signs and symptoms: pain or tenderness in your leg or arm that is not caused by an injury; swelling (often in one leg or arm); skin that is discolored (red) or warm to the touch. A DVT is dangerous. Call your doctor or seek medical attention right away if you experience symptoms. 

PE signs and symptoms: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; chest pain (back pain or rib pain), or pain occurring with a deep breath; unexplained coughing or coughing up blood; a fast or irregular heart-rate. A PE is life-threatening. Call 911 or go to the hospital if you experience symptoms. 

It is also important to note that not everyone experiences every symptoms of blood clots. Some people experience some or even none of these symptoms, which is why it is also important to know your risk for blood clots and take steps to prevent blood clots.

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