In 2008, the Surgeon General initiated a ‘Call to Action’ to spotlight deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, the commonly misdiagnosed and misunderstood conditions responsible for over 100,000 deaths per year. Today over 2 million Americans are affected annually by DVT/PE, yet most Americans have little awareness.
DVT is a serious condition in which a clot forms inside a vein located deep inside the body. Deep vein clots can occur throughout the body, however, they are commonly found in the lower leg, thigh, arm or pelvis.
Blood clots can be dangerous because they block vein blood flow, causing discomfort, swelling or redness in and around the area of the clot. They may also break away and travel through the veins and lodge in the lungs, affecting blood flow and breathing. This is called Pulmonary Embolism (PE) and may cause serious lung damage, heart failure and death.
Risk Factors in deep vein thrombosis. The risk factors may be considered strong, moderate or mild risks. Those who develop DVT often have multiple risk factors present.
- Extended hospitalization stay
- Surgery ( especially knee, hip or cancer-related surgeries)
- Immobility due to bed-rest, long travels, trauma
- Family or personal history of DVT or clotting disorder
- Age over 65
- Estrogen based medications
- Other: Obesity, Smoking, Alcohol, Pregnancy, Dehydration
Warning signs of deep vein thrombosis. There are approximately 900,000 DVT incidents per year in the U.S. DVT can be hard to recognize; it can be a ‘silent’ condition. Additionally, other conditions mimic DVT such as muscle strain, skin infections, and phlebitis. An undiagnosed DVT episode then may lead to serious complications such as chronic blood flow problems of the legs (post-thrombotic syndrome) and pulmonary embolism. When symptoms are present they may include:
- Pain or soreness in leg or arm
- Skin that is warm to touch
- Skin discoloration (red, brown, bluish)
- Swelling, cramping or inflammation of leg or arm
If these symptoms are present, a physician should obtain an evaluation for suspected DVT. This should include an ultrasound (duplex scan) performed by a registered vascular technician (RVT) either in a vein or vascular specialty clinic or in the hospital.
Warning signs of pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening complication of deep vein thrombosis. Over 300,000 Americans die of PE each year. Immediate hospital medical attention and treatment is necessary for the following:
- Sudden, unexplained shortness of breath
- Chest pain or chest discomfort worsening with deep breath
- A rapid pulse or increase in pulse
- Cough with blood tinged sputum
- Sensation of lightheadedness or dizziness
Prevention may also include maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding inactivity, staying hydrated, or using compression stockings with long travel. New technologies are available for prevention and treatment which may improve health outcomes and save lives. It’s important to understand your own risks and to report warning signs quickly.
This March DVT Awareness Month, the Minnesota Vein Center team joins together with other health advocacy groups to increase DVT awareness. You can help by being personally aware and by sharing this information with co-workers, friends and loved ones. If you would like to learn more call us at 651-765-8346.