(CMR) Blood clots can be helpful under normal circumstances when you get cuts; however, sometimes people get way too many, and if this is not addressed on time, it can lead to serious complications or even death.
Everyday Health explained that some people get too many blood clots, and other people have blood that clots in an unusual way. This results in venous thromboembolism (VTE), a disorder that affects between 300,000 to 600,000 Americans each year.
Without proper treatment, VTE can block blood flow and oxygen to parts of your body. This can cause serious damage to your tissues and organs, or even death. The good news is that you can reduce VTE risk through lifestyle changes and medication when appropriate.
According to Everyday Health writer Aisha Langford, here are five facts that doctors wish everyone knew about VTE:
Some patient populations are at higher risk.
“About 40 percent of all VTE occur in hospitals or shortly after discharge, and about 30 percent of all VTE occur in cancer patients,” says Mary Cushman, MD, hematologist and medical director of the thrombosis and hemostasis program at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. VTE risk is particularly high during chemotherapy treatment and after cancer-related surgery.
Other populations at higher risk for VTE include people with autoimmune diseases like lupus and those living with HIV. Having a personal history of stroke or a prior deep vein thrombosis also puts you at higher risk.
During a hospital stay, it’s important to have a VTE risk assessment by your healthcare team, notes the National Health Services. This will help determine the best prevention strategy for your situation. Low-dose blood thinners are usually used to treat both persons hospitalized and cancer out-patients with VTE.
Signs and Symptoms are VTE are not always obvious
Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are two forms of VTE. Deep vein thrombosis is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the lower leg or thigh. A pulmonary embolism occurs when a clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs.
If you have deep vein thrombosis, you may experience the following symptoms:
Swelling in legs or arms, pain or tenderness, increased warmth, cramps, or aching, and red or discolored skin.
The symptoms of pulmonary embolism include shortness of breath, pain with deep breathing, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and coughing.
There is no routine screening.
Routine screening tests are available for common conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol, but there aren’t any evidence-based screening tests to detect blood clots.
Dr. Ada Stewart explained the “The main ways that doctors assess your risk for VTE is by taking a good medical history and by evaluating your signs and symptoms. Your doctor may also ask about any family history of blood clots and will review your current medication.”
Because no screening test exists for finding blood clots, it’s important to know the risk factors, such as surgery, sitting or being in bed for long periods of time, age, sex, obesity, hormone-based medication, like birth control, pregnancy, and race and ethnicity.
Behavior and lifestyle factors are important for preventing VTE
Being sedentary, obese, and smoking all increase a person’s risk for blood clots.
Stewart also noted that while many patients are aware that smoking is bad for cardiovascular disease and blood pressure, they don’t realize that smoking is also bad for blood clots.
You can’t change some risk factors, like age or family history, but behaviors are within your control. For example, if you have a job where you sit a lot, be sure to get up and move around periodically. If you smoke, quit. Maintain a healthy diet and get regular exercise.
There are effective drugs to treat VTE.
There has reportedly been a revolution of new drugs in the last 5 to 10 years, which have simplified the treatment of VTE. These medicines are called direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs).
If you’re concerned about taking anticoagulant medication, talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of each option. For example, bleeding is the main side effect of blood thinners and is a concern for some patients. This may be particularly true for those who are older and have other risk factors for bleeding.
If you’d prefer to try a more natural approach to lowering your VTE risk, weight loss and other lifestyle changes are good options. Statins can also help lower the risk for blood clots.