How does deep vein thrombosis (DVT) affect the body?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Pulmonary embolism may result when the blood clot detaches and travels to an artery in the lungs. This blood clot may block the artery and prevent the flow of blood from the heart to other parts of the body, resulting in death if not treated immediately. Signs of this include chest pain during inhalation, fast heart rate, and sudden shortness of breath, but often there are no symptoms. Another effect is the development of sores on the skin of the affected area, due to blood escaping from damaged veins and swelling and pooling. Scar tissue in the veins as a result of healing may cause post-phlebitic syndrome, a chronic condition also marked by discolored skin, pain, and swelling in your legs.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) cannot only cause pain in the body, but also cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. In the body, the heart pumps down; it does not suck up. When the heart pumps to the legs, the legs have to pump the blood back up. If the veins are blocked, the leg pumps don't work and the blood pools in the legs, causing pain and swelling. If you have DVT, a clot can also break off, go upstream and block the blood flow to the lung. The resulting pulmonary embolism (PE) can be quickly fatal if not treated.

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