March Is Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month
Each year, more than 600,000 Americans are affected by blood clots. Many of these blood clots are detectable at hospitals, yet blood clot-related deaths account for more deaths in America than breast cancer or AIDS.
For these reasons, March has been declared Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness month. This week, we will begin a four-part series on Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) during which we will provide education on the condition, how it can be detected, treated and prevented.
To start, you need to know what DVT is. DVT is a blood clot that forms in a vein located deep in the body. The most common area for DVT to occur is in the leg, specifically in the calf or thigh. However, DVT can occur within any deep veins located throughout the body – arms, abdomen and most severely, in the brain.
The blood clots that form in these large veins are troublesome because they can block circulation or break off from the vein wall and migrate through the bloodstream.
One of the ways these clots can block circulation is when pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs. PE is when a blood clot formed in one of those large veins migrates through the bloodstream until it reaches the lungs. When this happens, it can block a pulmonary artery – contributing to as many as 200,000 American deaths a year.
While only half of DVT cases are detected after a patient experiences symptoms, it is important to know the symptoms so that if you experience a sudden onset, you can seek medical attention.
Symptoms of DVT include:
•swelling in one or both legs
• pain or tenderness in the legs that may only occur moving or standing
• increased warmth in the painful area of the leg
• redness or discolored skin in the painful area of the leg
Often times, individuals are not aware they have DVT until it has become PE. Symptoms of PE include a sudden shortness of breath, pain with deep breathing and coughing up blood. If you have any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor.
Knowing what DVT is and being vigilant of symptoms is the first step of awareness. Next week, we’ll discuss causes, risk factors and complications with the venous condition.