According to the CDC, someone in the U.S. dies of a blood clot every 6 minutes. In fact, each year, more people lose their lives to blood clots than AIDS, breast cancer and motor vehicle accidents combined.
March is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Awareness Month. Also known as Blood Clot Awareness Month, it’s a public health initiative aimed at raising awareness of this commonly occurring medical condition and its potentially fatal complication, pulmonary embolism.
A DVT is a blood clot in one of the large veins, typically in the arm or leg. Anyone, regardless of age or gender, can develop a blood clot, which can cause serious complications and sometimes death. Yet, surprisingly, most people don’t know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a blood clot or know their risk factors.
Blood Clot Symptoms
The most common warning signs of DVT include pain, warmth, swelling, discoloration or discomfort in the leg. However, it can occur without noticeable symptoms. DVT can also lead to pulmonary embolism, a life-threatening condition. Its symptoms include shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and coughing up blood. If you’re showing any of those warning signs, seek immediate medical attention.
Blood Clot Risk Factors
Some people are more at risk for DVT than others. Those undergoing major surgery, people over the age of 65 and those who are confined to long periods of immobility, whether by bed rest or frequent traveling, are more likely to be afflicted. However, there are many other factors that can increase your risk of developing DVT.
- Varicose veins. If you are among the 23 percent of adult Americans with varicose veins, your risk of a blood clot increases exponentially. A major study published last year in the journal JAMA found that adults with varicose veins are at significantly higher risk of developing DVT. The study included almost half a million participants and the risk increased for both men and women.
- Genetics. Family history also plays a large role in the probability of developing a blood clot or DVT. If you have family members with varicose veins, you are at increased risk.
- Inactivity. Extended periods of laying or sitting down can disrupt healthy blood flow and lead to clotting. You can decrease your risk by getting up and moving around at frequent intervals and avoiding crossing your legs while sitting.
- Obesity. Being overweight or obese puts more strain on your veins, which can lead to blood clots. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight, exercising daily and eating a balanced diet can reduce your risk.
- Pregnancy. Being pregnant increases pressure on the pelvis and legs and can potentially lead to blog clots.
- Smoking. Smoking can have a significant negative effect on circulation and clotting, which can dramatically increase your risk of DVT.
- Hormones. Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can also increase clotting, making you more susceptible to DVT.
Help us Spread the Word
With DVT Awareness Month, leading medical, public health and patient advocacy groups are working to increase awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors of DVT. You can help by learning more about the condition, symptoms and risk factors and sharing this life-saving information with your friends and family. If you think you are at risk, contact Northern Illinois Vein Clinic to schedule a free vein screening.