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    Danger! Deep Vein Thrombosis

    By Paige Fowler
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum, MD

    Four years ago, when Sara Wyen was 29, she joined her training group for a Saturday morning run. Afterward, her left knee starting hurting badly. “I struggled with a knee injury so I was used to that type of pain,” she says.

    She treated it with rest, ice, and a hot shower, but her discomfort got worse. By Sunday morning Wyen couldn’t walk. She also had shortness of breath and pain in her side.

    Recommended Related to DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)

    How to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

    DVT is a blood clot that forms deep in your veins, most often in your leg. It can partially or completely block blood flow back to the heart and damage the one-way valves in your veins. It can also break free and travel to major organs, such as your lungs, which can be very dangerous. About 1 in 10 people die from DVT complications. About 350,000 Americans are diagnosed with these blood clots each year, and almost as many have them and don't know it. Even if you're at risk, you can take steps...

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    “I couldn’t speak in complete sentences,” she says. “I had to stop to catch my breath.” That’s when she knew something was very wrong.

    Wyen called her doctor. He told her to go to the ER right away. There, she got news she never expected to hear: She had a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in her lung. It was caused by deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in her leg.

    What Is DVT?

    “[It] occurs when a blood clot forms in the veins located deep in the middle of the leg,” says Jack Ansell, MD, professor of medicine at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. “It can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the arm or the abdomen, but the leg is the most common location. The major danger with DVT is what happens when a piece of the blood clot breaks off and travels to an artery in the lungs.”

    When it blocks blood flow in the lungs it causes a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. Fortunately for Wyen, doctors found the blood clot in her lung early enough to treat it.


    During Wyen’s hospital stay, doctors learned the cause of her DVT. She has an autoimmune disease that increases her chances of getting blood clots.

    She was also taking birth control pills that contained estrogen. This raised her risk, too.

    A number of conditions can raise your odds of getting DVT. Some of them include:

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