Circulatory System

Thrombo-embolic Disease

What is Thrombo-embolic Disease?

Thrombo-embolic disease—also known as venous thromboembolism—is a condition in which blood clots form in the veins (usually the deep veins of the legs). These clots sometimes break loose, flow with the blood returning to the heart, and get caught in the arteries of the lungs.

This problem of venous clots (thrombi) blocking arteries in the lungs is called pulmonary embolism and is sometimes fatal. Even if they do not result in pulmonary embolism, blood clots in the deep leg veins (deep venous thrombophlebitis) can be serious as they may destroy the valves in the veins and result in chronic swelling and pain. This chronic complication is called post-phlebitic syndrome.

Almost anyone can have a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a condition included in the VTE diagnosis. However, certain factors can increase the chance of having this condition. The chance increases even more for someone who has more than one of these factors at the same time.

The following increase your risk of developing the condition:

Injury to a vein, often caused by:

  • Fractures
  • Severe muscle injury
  • Major surgery (particularly involving the abdomen, pelvis, hip, or legs)

Slow blood flow, often caused by:

  • Confinement to bed (e.g., due to a medical condition or after surgery)
  • Limited movement (e.g., a cast on a leg to help heal an injured bone)
  • Sitting for a long time, especially with crossed legs
  • Paralysis

Increased estrogen, often caused by:

  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy, sometimes used after menopause
  • Pregnancy, for up to 3 months after giving birth

Certain chronic medical illnesses, such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Cancer and its treatment
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)

If you have pain, swelling, or a heavy aching in your leg, see your primary care doctor as soon as possible.

Some of the risk factors of developing the condition are:

  • Previous DVT or PE
  • Family history of DVT or PE
  • Age (risk increases as age increases)
  • Obesity
  • A catheter located in a central vein
  • Inherited clotting disorders

About half of people with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) have no symptoms at all. The following are the most common symptoms of DVT that occur in the affected part of the body:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Redness of the skin

If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

You can have a Pulmonary Embolism (PE) without any symptoms of a DVT.

Signs and symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Faster than normal or irregular heart beat
  • Chest pain or discomfort, which usually worsens with a deep breath or coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Very low blood pressure, lightheadedness, or fainting

If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately.

If you experience the following, call 911 or visit the emergency room:

  • throbbing or cramping pain in 1 leg (rarely both legs), usually in the calf or thigh
  • swelling in 1 leg (rarely both legs)
  • warm skin around the painful area
  • red or darkened skin around the painful area
  • swollen veins that are hard or sore when you touch them

These symptoms can also happen in your arm or tummy if that’s where the blood clot is.

  • Not smoking
  • Taking steps to lower your blood pressure
  • Watching your weight
  • Limiting the amount of time you spend sitting
  • Exercising daily, mainly walking, swimming, or other activities that promote good blood circulation
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes for extended periods
  • Drinking lots of fluids
  • Consuming foods that act as natural blood thinners to reduce the risk of developing blood clots, such as vitamin E, ginger, cayenne pepper, garlic, turmeric, and cinnamon

If you have Thrombo-embolic Disease/ Venous thromboembolism (VTE) we recommend you see your doctor every year. Recommended treatments are covered by AHDI in our Standards of Care.

If you need additional resources to help manage your Thrombo-embolic Disease/ Venous thromboembolism (VTE), visit the National Blood Clot Alliance’s website