Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)

This condition, commonly called “VTE,” occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein deep within your body. This can happen in your leg, or in another part of your body. The clot travels through your circulatory system. When it reaches your lungs, it blocks an artery within them. This prevents oxygenation of your blood. This is a pulmonary embolism. It can be fatal.

Symptoms

Because clots tend to form in the legs, symptoms of VTE may begin with pain and tenderness in one or
both legs. The legs may swell, and the skin may feel warm. One or both legs may appear red or discolored. As the clot reaches your lungs, you may begin to have anxiety, chest pain and shortness of breath. You may cough up blood. Your heart may beat rapidly, and you may develop a fever. You may feel dizzy or faint, and you may collapse.

Risk Factors

Several factors can increase your risk for VTE. Not moving for long periods is the biggest risk factor. This is often a problem for hospital patients and for long-distance travelers. Advanced age, a history of clotting disorders, and certain medications can also raise your risk. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, alcohol use and pregnancy.

Prevention

VTE can be prevented. Frequent foot and leg exercises help prevent clots. Compression stockings can keep blood from pooling in your legs. You may benefit from medication to thin your blood or to break up clots. Ask your healthcare provider to create a prevention plan that is right for your needs.