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A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a vein inside a muscle. Usually it's in a lower leg, thigh, pelvis, or arm.

"Typically, a person calls saying, 'I've had 3 or 4 days of swelling in one of my legs, and it won't go down,'" says Terri Remy, MD, of Primary Care Alexandria in Virginia.

Symptoms usually include swelling and sometimes pain and tenderness. But you won't always have them.

Who Gets It?

You're more likely to get DVT if you:

Clot Risks

The biggest worry of a DVT is that it could travel through your blood vessels to your lungs. Once it's there, it's called a pulmonary embolism. It can damage your lungs or even be fatal.

Even if the clot doesn't move, it can still be a problem. If it gets too big, it could block blood flow and damage the valves in the vein. This can make your leg hurt, swell, and change color.


Compression stockings can help with symptoms of DVT. Medications will make your blood less likely to form clots as well as break up a clot you already have.

Some people need a vena cava filter. It goes inside the large vein that takes blood back to your heart, so clots can't get to your lungs and heart.

Avoid DVT

The condition is preventable, says Charles Cutler, MD. His advice? Keep your weight healthy, and be active.

If you must stay seated for a long time, move your legs and flex your calves to keep your blood pumping. On a long flight, get up to walk the aisle at least every hour or so. Pull over often during road trips to take short walks.

When an injury or illness confines you to bed, start moving around as much and as soon as possible. Walking is really good for you.


Living With

See the causes, dangers, and treatments of DVT in this slideshow.