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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and the subsequent pulmonary embolism that it can cause occur when a clot forms in the deep veins of the body, most usually the leg. If this clot, or a piece of it, breaks free, it can travel through the circulatory system until it reaches the narrow pulmonary artery and get stuck. This can prevent blood getting past the clot, and causing death or serious damage to the lungs. DVT is most strongly associated with air travel and other sedentary activities, but in reality can affect wide range of people and as many as one-in-20 people may develop DVT in their lifetimes.
The Symptoms of DVT
Treatment usually comes in the form an anti-clotting drug to break up the clot and in the event of pulmonary embolism, time is of the essence if serious lung damage or death is not to occur. Not every incident of DVT will result in a pulmonary embolism. However, this can also create problems because if the clot remains where it is, it can damage the arteries and valves as the blood flow is forced past the clot.
The symptoms of DVT can include swelling and pain, and sometimes fever, while a pulmonary embolism can be characterised by shortness of breath, light-headedness, dizziness, chest pain or a rapid heart rate. However, none of the symptoms are unique to DVT or pulmonary embolism and a more thorough physical examination and an ultrasound test should be used to determine whether a patient is suffering from DVT or pulmonary embolism.