Skip to content

    Deep Vein Thrombosis Health Center

    Font Size

    Complications of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

    If you have a clot in a deep vein, you're at risk for damage to your veins and organs as well as other life-threatening problems. Not everyone who gets DVT will have trouble, but there's a decent chance you could be affected.

    Stick to your DVT treatment plan to help your body break down your clot and keep your blood moving. Ask your doctor what else you can do about these complications.

    Recommended Related to DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)

    Blood Clot Symptoms in Your Body

    Ever get a paper cut or nick yourself while shaving? When that happens, a blood clot saves the day. It quickly stops the bleeding, and when it's done its job, it usually breaks up. Sometimes, though, things can go wrong. When blood clots don't fall apart, they can be dangerous and lead to serious medical conditions. You can get them in blood vessels in just about any part of your body. You might get a clot in your arteries, which carry oxygen in your blood from your heart to all the cells of your...

    Read the Blood Clot Symptoms in Your Body article > >

    Pulmonary Embolism

    DVT in the leg is the most common cause. If your blood clot comes loose from the vein and moves through your bloodstream so it ends up partly or completely blocking a lung artery, it's called a pulmonary embolism (PE). This can happen right after the clot forms, or it may happen later.

    At least 1 in 10 people with deep vein thrombosis have a PE. That number may actually be much higher, though, because 3 out of 4 cause no symptoms and go undiagnosed.

    If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.

    • Sudden cough, which may be bloody
    • Rapid breathing or sudden shortness of breath, even while resting
    • Chest pain: sharp or stabbing, burning, aching, or dull (might get worse with deep breaths, coughing, eating, or bending)
    • Sudden rapid heart rate

    PE can lead to even more serious problems, including:

    You may need emergency care in the hospital. Doctors can give you medications that dissolve the clot (thrombolytics) and prevent new clots (anticoagulants, or blood thinners). Depending on your symptoms and what your tests show, you may need other treatment, too.

    Postthrombotic Syndrome

    When a clot stays in your leg or arm for too long, it can damage the vein or its valves. Valves that don't work right let blood backflow and pool, instead of pushing it toward the heart.

    Postthrombotic syndrome is usually mild, but some symptoms can be severe. They may not show up until years later. Maybe half of people with DVT end up with long-term effects where the clot was:

    • Pain
    • Swelling
    • Darkened skin color
    • Skin sores
    • Varicose veins -- swollen, sometimes twisted or blue veins you can see under the skin

    Because blood that isn't flowing well is more likely to clot, you could also get another DVT or a pulmonary embolism.

    Prevention is key. Your doctor may recommend that you:

    • Wear compression stockings.
    • Keep your leg or arm raised while at rest.
    • Undergo a procedure that opens a narrow vein, such as a balloon angioplasty or stenting.
    • Get the clot removed with surgery.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on July 14, 2015

    Today on WebMD

    TAG dvt blood clot
    Symptoms, causes, risk factors, and more.
    businesswoman in airport
    Tips to prevent another clot.
    blood thinners
    Tips for DVT.
    Blood clots in artery
    Causes and treatments.
    Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
    Having Surgery Tips To Reduce DVT Risk And More
    New DVT Therapies On The Horizon
    Atrial Fibrillation Guide

    WebMD Special Sections