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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 cause a condition known as post-thrombotic syndrome, where veins affected with DVT are permanently damaged. This damage results in long-term leg pain, swelling, skin changes and possibly leg sores.

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

Symptoms of DVT include recent swelling of one leg and 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 coughing up blood. Experiencing the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism is a medical emergency: Call 911.

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

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