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Women and Deep Vein Thrombosis

Women and Deep Vein Thrombosis

Women can experience a vascular problem called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), also known as a blood clot. DVT most commonly occurs in the deep veins of the legs, where it can partially or completely block blood flow in the vein. DVT can permanently damage the veins resulting in long-term leg pain, swelling, skin changes and possibly leg sores. This condition is known as the post-thrombotic syndrome.

DVT can also break off and travel to the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolus (PE), which can be fatal.

Certain women are at greater risk for developing DVT, but it can occur in anyone. Risk factors of DVT include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Recent childbirth (six to eight weeks postpartum)
  • Use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
  • Cancer
  • Family history of clotting disorders
  • Extended bed rest
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Long haul travel (long airplane flights)
  • Major surgery


Symptoms of DVT include recent swelling of one leg and/or unexplained pain or tenderness of one leg. Approximately half of people with DVT do not have a recognized symptom.

Symptoms of PE include sudden shortness of breath, sharp chest pain and/or coughing up blood. If you are experiencing the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, seek medical attention immediately.

Learn more about DVT and vascular disease services at the Northwestern Medicine Center for Vascular Disease.

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Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is a nationally recognized destination for those who require highly specialized cardiovascular care.
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