Would you believe that blood clots affect approximately 900,000 Americans annually? This serious, potentially life-threatening condition often remains under diagnosed, mostly due to the fact that the majority of us do knot know what to look for.
I actually remember being particularly worried after both my hip replacement surgeries of forming a blood clot. I was almost obsessed with ensuring I followed the guidelines with my breathing and leg exercises. What was also not too pleasant was the daily shot I had to administer into my stomach for 30 days as well!
So let’s take a look at some types of blood clots, risks, treatment, and risk reduction.
Types of Blood Clots
Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is the term used for two types of blood clots that begin in a vein. One you will have probably heard of is, deep vein thrombosis (DVT.) DVT refers to clots that form in a deep vein.
What is particularly dangerous about DVT clots is that they can detach themselves and travel to the lungs which reduces or completely blocks the blood supply. This is referred to as a pulmonary embolism (PE) and in many cases it is fatal. In fact up to 100,000 Americans die each year as a result of DVT/PE!
Blood clots can actually start in any major vein in the body. The highest percentage are formed in the legs with only 10% starting in the arms or neck. Unfortunately, blood clots formed in the legs are potentially more dangerous than those formed in the arms or neck due to the higher incidence of them turning into pulmonary embolism.
Risks and Treatments
Risk will increase with age, but literally anyone, no matter what age, can suffer with a VTE.
Risk factors include immobility, physical inactivity, obesity and family history. Unfortunately, at least half of all blood clots are the direct result of a surgery or hospitalization.
Pregnant and postpartum women are also high risk. In fact they are five times more likely to develop a blood clot than non-pregnant women. DVT/PE is one of the leading causes of death in a pregnant or postpartum woman.
Oral contraceptives are also a high risk factor for woman, in fact it can increase a woman’s risk of developing VTE’s by at least three to four times!
Treatment comprises of thrombolytic therapy, medication to dissolve the clots to prevent a PE, and anticoagulants, medication to prevent blood clots from forming.
It is important to be aware of the various signs and symptoms such as:-
- Arms and Legs – Swelling, discomfort, tenderness, red or discolored skin, skin that’s warm to touch, a sudden or gradual onset of pain for no apparent reason i.e. no injury.
- Abdomen – Severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea.
- Lungs – Sharp chest pain, racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, fever, coughing up blood.
- Heart – Chest heaviness or pain, discomfort in other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, light-headedness.
- Brain – Weakness of the face, arms or legs, difficulty speaking, vision problems, sudden and severe headache, dizziness.
It is also advisable to avoid prolonged sitting. Sitting at a desk for too long, long haul flights or lengthy car journeys should be broken up by walking around every two/three hours or so.
Maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking are important steps towards prevention.
If you are about to undergo surgery that may leave you immobile, ask your doctor about blood clot prevention prior to surgery.
It goes without saying but seek medical help if you do have any signs or symptoms of a blood clot.
Sources : The National Blood Clot Alliance and the American Society of Hematology.