Stopping blood clots
Blood clots can be life-threatening and could happen to anyone.
Blood clots do not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity or race.
Blood clots affect everyone, from infants and young children to teens and senior citizens. Elite athletes, public servants, musicians, doctors, nurses, business associates and people from all walks of life have the potential to be affected.
The first and most important thing you can do to protect yourself from a life-threatening blood clot is to learn if you are at risk.
Blood clot risk factors include:
- Hospitalization for illness or surgery
- Major surgery, particularly of the pelvis, abdomen, hip or knee
- Severe trauma, such as a car accident
- Injury to a vein that may have been caused by a broken bone or severe muscle injury
- Hip or knee replacement surgery
- Cancer and cancer treatments
- Use of birth control methods that contain estrogen, such as the pill, patch or ring
- Pregnancy, which includes the six weeks after the baby is born
- The use of hormone replacement therapy, which contains estrogen
- A family history of blood clots
- Confinement to bed
- Sitting too long, especially with legs crossed
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists other risk factors such as:
- Older age (risk increases after age 40)
- Obesity (body mass index (BMI) greater than 30kg/m2)
- Use of estrogen-containing contraceptives (birth control pills, rings, patches)
- Hormone replacement therapy (medical treatment in which hormones are given to reduce the effects of menopause)
- Limited mobility (for example, a leg cast)
- Catheter placed in a large vein
- Varicose veins
Recognizing the symptoms
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – about half of people with DVT have no symptoms at all. The following are the most common symptoms of DVT that occur in the affected part of the body (usually the leg or arm):
- Swelling of your leg or arm
- Pain or tenderness that you can’t explain
- Skin that is warm to the touch
- Redness of the skin
Pulmonary Embolism (PE) – you can have a PE without any symptoms of a DVT. Symptoms of a PE can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Faster than normal or irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain or discomfort, which usually worsens with a deep breath or coughing
- Coughing up blood
- Lightheadedness or fainting
The combination of long-distance travel with one or more of these risks may increase the likelihood of developing a blood clot. If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
A complete list of risk factors can be found through the CDC website. Visit Michigan State University Extension for other articles concerning blood clots at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/pages/search_results?query=blood+clots.