Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
A deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot that occurs inside a vein. Veins are blood vessels that carry oxygen-poor blood back to the heart (arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body).
DVT blood clots usually occur in the leg, although they can occur in the arm or other peripheral veins. The clot can block blood flow and lead to painful swelling in the affected limb. A DVT may also lead to a pulmonary embolism (PE), which happens when a DVT blood clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream into the lungs.
DVT and PE blood clots may also be referred to as venous thromboembolism (VTE). It is estimated that between 300,000 and 600,000 Americans per year are affected by DVT or PE. These conditions are the third-most-common diagnoses related to blood vessels after heart attack and stroke.
DVTs are usually caused by a change or slowing of blood flow. For example, your blood flow can slow down enough to form a clot when sitting for long periods of time, after surgery, or perhaps extensive time in an ICU bed / hospitalization. DVT blood clots are also more common in women who are pregnant or taking birth control or other hormonal drugs, overweight people, or people with cancer or autoimmune disorders. People with a family history of DVT are also at risk.
DVT Risk Factors
Having a DVT can be scary, and it’s normal to want to understand how it could have happened, especially if you feel like you’re generally healthy. The truth is, almost anyone can get a DVT, but your risk increases if you have certain risk factors, especially if you have more than one.
DVT risk factors you can influence:
- Flying on a plane or sitting for extended periods
- Being overweight
- Oral contraceptives or hormone therapy
- Injury to a deep vein due to surgery or other trauma
- Slow blood flow due to immobility after surgery or during illness
- Certain cancer treatments
DVT risk factors you can’t change:
- A family history of DVT
- Certain blood disorders that make your blood more likely to clot
- Older age