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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the deep veins in the legs. These clots can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism (PE). Even when they don’t, they can cause permanent damage to the leg veins that results in long-term pain, swelling, and disability of the leg.
Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism affect as many as 600,000 people every year. Some people experience pain, swelling and varying levels of discomfort in the affected area, while others don’t feel anything at all. The symptoms of DVT can also be similar to those of other conditions, like a pulled muscle.
Because some people with DVT don’t have any symptoms, and because the symptoms can masquerade as a more benign ailment, there’s often a delay in diagnosis. That’s when DVT can be fatal. DVT/PE is the fourth leading cause of death in western society, with more fatalities than breast cancer, AIDS and traffic accidents combined.
DVT can be prevented in many cases through regular activity, healthy eating and talking to your health care provider about preventing blood clots before any surgical procedures or hospitalizations. When diagnosed and treated early enough, DVT isn’t always life-threatening.
Anyone can develop DVT. The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk. Risk factors include:
A woman’s risk of DVT varies with hormonal exposure, making pregnancy, use of hormone replacement therapy or birth control products important risk considerations. In fact, DVT/PE is the most common cause of maternal death. Because these risk factors are unique to women, the Vascular Disease Foundation (VDF), in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Venous Disease Coalition (VDC), is committed to educating women about their gender-specific risks.
The VDF, CDC and VDC are driving awareness and action around the prevention of DVT and PE in women through their national campaign This is Serious. The campaign highlights women’s DVT risk factors, and encourages women to be alert for DVT/PE symptoms and to talk to their health care providers about their risks.
The This is Serious campaign includes TV public service announcements, an educational video and a tool kit to aid partners in spreading the word about DVT/PE on the local level.