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/).

6 COMMENTS

  1. My family have a blood clotting disorder called Factor 5 Leiden. We only discovered this about 10 years ago and males and females young and older were diagnosed with it. More people need to know about Factor 5 Leiden. We’re from New Zealand

  2. Yes it’s the silent killer .my daughter was 22 years old just graduated from university of nursing in Canada. Very sportive slim eat very healthy was on birth control due to hormone. here leg became swollen and could see difference .couldn’t breath easily .never smoked or drink alcohol. But was working hard on here self at gym and studied .3 days after here leg swollen couldn’t drive from work to home .was ruched to emergency room .after El EEG .ct scan blood work show 5 clots on here lungs .theys to really care and results pulmonary umbolisme disease. Was every day at hospital for treatment to dissolve the clots and on médecine .dignosé with factor 5 .here blood clots .and she wasnt here self for 8 months .but she become strong and said I’m not ganna ruin my life.become RN nurse and should be theire and now I’m the one who is in Ned for treatment.can’t work hard on here self .but she had a nose surgery on February and here clots happen in juin the 30. She was rich buy ambulance more than 5 time since the issue happen.specially when the pain come on here chest and feel Nam on here tongue it’s just like heart attack symptom
    Can’t breath and very hard to deal.hope that help and the problem it can happen with no symptom .that’s why his the silent killer.

      • Oh thank you for your reply .yes as said on my story she was graduated as registerd nurse on juin 2013 .did not enjoy here graduation on honor roll from university in Canada .4 weeks later she had that terrible problem.and was very hard to explain the disease to family member even me did never knew about .bug because I was reading a lot from here books .and rush to find out and understood easily .Canadian people knew lots of that .but as Canadians.but others none.yes it’s very dangerous .no more than 3 weeks she got here symptom and called ambulance .but thanks god she was fine .slept at hospital. She is a successful nurse .love life and people .but has to live and deal with this .god bless you and everyone.

  3. The American Society of Hematology encourages you to talk with your provider about your own risk. There isn’t an overall risk calculator that can be used. In cancer patients specifically there are a few risk scores for those with active cancer. You can learn more from your provider.

  4. How do you predict DVT? Is there a combination of data points, from labs and HRV, BP, etc that could enable sun to build an algorithm for individuals? I’m thinking also of cancer survivors whose CV systems have been assaulted by cytotoxic treatments.

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