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Deep Vein Thrombosis Health Center

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Danger! Deep Vein Thrombosis

Could you have a life-threatening blood clot?

DVT: Symptoms and Warning Signs

The classic symptoms of DVT, which are confined to the affected area, typically the lower leg, include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Redness or discoloration of the skin

But unfortunately, about half of the time, deep vein thrombosis has no symptoms at all. Or it may have uncommon symptoms. Often, the first symptom is pulmonary embolism, when a blood clot breaks off and moves into the lungs.

Typical symptoms of a pulmonary embolism are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Feeling of apprehension
  • Sharp chest pain that worsens when you breath deeply
  • Low blood pressure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coughing up blood

One DVT Survivor's Story

Sherry Wilcox knows that deep vein thrombosis can have unusual symptoms. In July 2003, at the age of 38, Wilcox went to a Georgia hospital with intense pain in her chest and back. Doctors ran tests and assured her that she was fine.

Two weeks later, Wilcox collapsed in the middle of a meeting. She spent the next few months in and out of the hospital, yet her doctors were still stumped. In desperation, she agreed to her gynecologist's recommendation to get a hysterectomy. It didn't help.

It was only three months after her first trip to the hospital that Wilcox finally was diagnosed with DVT, once she finally showed the typical symptoms. The blood flow was so blocked that her leg swelled up by four inches and turned purple.

Wilcox has a degree in nursing and she knew about deep vein thrombosis. But she never considered that she might have it.

"I didn't have the typical symptoms," she tells WebMD. "DVT is just not the first thing you think of with a 38-year old person."

By the time she was diagnosed, the clot was so large that it extended from the veins in her knee to within an inch of her heart. The grim irony of her story is that every medical intervention -- which included multiple hospitalizations -- was leaving her more inactive and probably worsening her condition.

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