This past week the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States issued a press release as a call to action regarding Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). I would like to spread the word about this via this medium. Deep Vein Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot, usually in the deep and large veins of the legs. If this clot becomes dislodged and moves it can become a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs) or it can get stuck in any of the other major organs of the body. It can be fatal.
First some facts: DVT kills more people in the United States than AIDS and breast cancer combined. According to the Surgeon General, “Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism affect an estimated 350,000 to 600,000 Americans each year and incidence is expected to increase as the U.S. population ages. Together, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are estimated to contribute to at least 100,000 deaths each year.”
While DVT can occur without any symptoms there are definitive signs and symptoms and certain populations of people with higher risk. Know what the symptoms are and whether you are in a higher risk category.
According to the Mayo Clinic symptoms include (not an exhaustive list and check with your doctor):
Swelling in the affected leg(s), usually it occurs in one leg, but can occur in both; this can include swelling in your ankles and feet.
Pain in your legs; this can include pain in your ankles and feet. This pain often starts in your calf and can feel like cramping or a “charley horse.”
Redness and warmth over the affected area.
Pain or swelling in your arms or neck. This can occur if a blood clot forms in your arms or neck.
Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism warning signs
Sometimes the first sign of deep vein thrombosis can be the chest pain associated with a pulmonary embolism. If this is the case, seek medical help immediately. The warning signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:
Chest pain or discomfort. This pain or discomfort usually gets worse when you take a deep breath or when you cough.
Unexplained sudden onset of shortness of breath. This is the most common symptom.
Feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or fainting.
Coughing up blood.
A sense of anxiety or nervousness.
Now of course these symptoms look like a lot of things but better safe than sorry.
Listed on ehealthMD deep vein thrombosis is the result of three principal factors:
1. Reduced or stagnant blood flow in deep veins (venous stasis).
2. Injury to the blood vessel wall.
3. An increase in the activity of those substances in the blood that are part of the normal clotting mechanism, a condition called hypercoagulability (which means a more active clotting state).
A number of factors can bring about these conditions, thus increasing the possibility of developing DVT. These include:
• Immobilization, such as lying in bed following surgery
• Having undergone a surgical procedure
• Having been subjected to major trauma
• Increasing age
• Malignancy (cancerous tumor)
• Heart failure
• A previous bout with deep vein thrombosis
• The use of oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy
Need To Know:
Surgical procedures that are most often associated with deep vein thrombosis are:
• Major pelvic or abdominal surgery, especially for malignancy (cancer)
• Orthopedic operations involving the hip and knee
• Neurosurgical procedures
The following factors also put people at greater risk of developing a blood clot:
• Prolonged immobilization (such as on a long car or airplane trip) – sitting for long periods (4 hours or more) reduces circulation in legs by 50 percent.
• Diabetes (a disorder in which the body can not make use of sugars and starches in a normal way), which damages blood vessels.
• Obesity – weight puts pressure on veins, causing them to weaken.
• Childbirth – physical strain of childbirth puts pressure on deep veins, causing them to weaken.
• Tobacco smoking – damages blood vessels and doubles the risk of thrombosis.
People over the age of 50 are at a higher risk, but DVT can affect anyone at any age. And according to the Surgeon General “African-Americans and Whites are more likely than other ethnic groups to develop a DVT or a pulmonary embolism. African-Americans are estimated to be at 30 percent greater risk compared to Whites.”
DVT and pulmonary embolism can be prevented and treated. If you have any concerns after reading this please talk to your doctor.
At my clinic located in downtown Silver Spring, MD I offer acupuncture, massage therapy and many other holistic health modalities. We are near Washington, DC, a few blocks from the Red Line Silver Spring station.