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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is venous thromboembolism or VTE?

When a clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg, it is called a deep vein thrombosis or DVT. If that clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs, it is called a pulmonary embolism or PE. Together, DVT and PE are known as VTE – a dangerous and potentially deadly medical condition. Watch Understanding Blood Clots to learn more.

How is a blood clot or pulmonary embolism (PE) diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing blood clots in the legs, called deep vein thrombosis or DVT, and blood clots in the lungs, called pulmonary embolism or PE, is to recognize their signs and symptoms. Blood clots can be fatal, yet they can also be safely treated, so it’s important to recognize warning signs and act quickly. Watch this video to learn more about the signs and symptoms.

When do symptoms of a blood clot usually show up?

DVTs can occur at any age, but the risk increases with age. Factors, such as taking birth control pills that contain estrogen, recent hospitalization or surgery, long-distance travel involving extended periods of immobility, cancer and some cancer treatments, and a family history can increase your risk.

Is there medicine I can take?

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe anticoagulants or “blood thinning” medication. For some people, surgery or intravenous medication is used to break up the clot. The best treatment option depends on the location of the blood clot and your medical history. The treatment is usually individualized so a similar blood clot can be treated very differently from person to person.

Remember that taking blood thinning medication can lead to bleeding, be careful using razors or nail trimmers to decrease the likelihood of injuring yourself and causing a cut. Seek medical attention if you have a fall or any other type of trauma such as hit your head. Watch this video to learn more about the risks of blood thinners.

How else can I manage a blood clot or pulmonary embolism (PE)?

Taking your prescribed medication is the best way to manage your DVT or PE and prevent complications. If you have a DVT, your doctor may ask you to wear compression socks to help decrease the swelling. Watch this video to find out more about how to manage DVTs and PEs.

What is the difference between PE and DVT?

PE occurs when a DVT, or blood clot in your leg or arm grows or breaks off and travels to your lungs. It can damage your lungs and other organs because it can lower the oxygen levels in your body. A PE is life-threatening.

What questions should I ask my doctor? How can I prepare for my appointment?

Write down the symptoms that you have been experiencing as well as your family’s health history. It is also important to note recent activities, such as surgery, sedentary lifestyle, recent travel. Make sure to also bring a list of all the medications, such as birth control, and supplements that you are currently taking.

Is a blood clot contagious?

DVT is not contagious.

What is my prognosis for a blood clot or pulmonary embolism?

The good news is that a prompt diagnosis and proper treatment can save lives and help prevent complications associated with blood clots.

Can a DVT cause a heart attack or a stroke?

A DVT is located in the veins and does not typically cause a stroke or heart attack.