Many people are not familiar with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)—a condition which refers to a blood clot that forms inside the veins of the body, typically in the legs—and of those who are, many hold on to several myths that have developed over time about the condition.
The fact is that each year as many as 900,000 people in the United States are affected by a DVT, with up to 100,000 dying from DVT or a pulmonary embolism (PE), which occurs when a piece of the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs.
As a hematologist who treats patients with blood clots, I see patients struggling with this all the time. So, it is important for me to draw attention to it. Why is this? If these kinds of blood clots are not treated promptly, they can linger in your body and turn deadly very quickly. This is why I call them “the silent killer.” Public awareness is low. It might surprise you that these kinds of clots are responsible for more deaths per year than breast cancer, car accidents, and AIDS combined.
While DVT is not usually the subject matter of headlines, recently, it was covered in the Miami media market and nationally when Chris Bosh, star player of the Miami Heat, was sidelined after a blood clot scare. This single, high-profile occurrence of DVT not only raises awareness about the condition itself, but it also serves to dispel a number of myths widely held among those who aren’t aware of its existence.
DVT is preventable and treatable if discovered early, so in honor of March being DVT Awareness Month, I worked with the American Society of Hematology to break down some of the common misperceptions surrounding DVT.
Myth #1: “I’ve never even heard of DVT. It can’t be that serious.”
Fact: DVT is a serious and underdiagnosed medical condition. In 25% of DVT/PE cases, sudden death is the first symptom.
Myth #2: “The chances of me getting DVT are pretty low.”
Fact: DVT can happen to anyone and can cause serious illness, disability, and, in some cases, death. Your risk of DVT increases if you have major surgery, have cancer, heart or lung disease, take birth control pills, or have a family history of DVT.
Myth #3: “Birth control medications will give me DVT.”
Fact: While studies have shown increased risk of blood clots while taking birth control pills, the vast majority of people who take these medications will have no complications. While women who struggle with their weight, smoke, or are over age 40 when using birth control pills have a higher risk of clots, a balanced diet and keeping a normal weight can help lessen their chances of DVT.
Myth #4: “I’m really active and in great shape, so I don’t need to worry about getting DVT.”
Fact: Almost anyone can get a DVT—young or old, couch potato to athlete. In fact, professional athletes are at increased risk if they’ve experienced recent physical injury, are dehydrated, and/or partake in long-distance travel.
Myth #5: “Women are at greater risk for DVT.”
Fact: Women do have a higher chance of DVT during their child-bearing years, as pregnancy increases the risk of DVT fivefold compared to non-pregnant women. However, after the age of 50, men are at greater risk of developing DVT than women.
The Take Away
With several recent advances in treatment and prevention and improved public awareness, together we can help reduce the deadly impact of this silent killer, DVT. For more information and resources on DVT, I encourage you to visit the American Society of Hematology’s website (http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Clots/).