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Blood clots are the body's way of stopping blood loss. If you cut your finger, the blood in the area of injury turns from liquid to solid, stopping the flow from your finger and paving the way for healing.
Clots are formed by blood cells and other factors in the blood. While most blood clots serve a helpful purpose, others cause problems. Blood clots aren't a problem unless they block the flow of blood where it belongs. Normally, blood carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Blood clots can keep blood and oxygen from reaching parts of the body, and without adequate oxygen, body parts can be damaged. Heart muscle or brain tissue that doesn't get enough oxygen, for instance, begins dying, and that hurts the functioning of the body.
A DVT is a deep vein thrombosis. The word thrombosis means clot, so a deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep inside the body, usually the leg, that blocks important blood flow. These blood clots can break loose and travel to other parts of the body. A blood clot that travels to the lungs and blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism, or PE. A PE is a potentially life-threatening event.
DVT and PE affect an estimated 350,000 to 600,000 Americans each year, contributing to at least 100,000 deaths annually. Most occur in people who have other illnesses or are recovering from surgery or a serious accident.
The best way to avoid being harmed by a DVT or PE is to know the symptoms. Timely diagnosis and treatment can help people avoid the most damaging outcomes.
Patient education resources supported in part by a grant from Janssen.