TOMS RIVER, NJ, March 9, 2009 – Deep vein thrombosis (DVT),
a potentially fatal condition occurring in about two million Americans
each year, is a condition that routinely causes minor or no symptoms
in about half of those affected, until it is too late.
DVT is the formation of a blood clot in one of the deep veins
within the body, such as in the leg or pelvis. When a blood clot
travels from the legs or pelvic areas and lodges in a lung artery,
the condition is known as a pulmonary embolism, or PE, a potentially
fatal condition if not immediately diagnosed and treated.
Several years ago, DVT and PE made headlines when NBC news correspondent
David Bloom began traveling across Iraq embedded with U.S. military
forces to report on the war. Several weeks into his trip, Bloom
began to experience leg cramps. Since he was spending nights sleeping
inside military vehicles in rather cramped quarters, leg cramps
didn’t seem particularly alarming. What 39-year-old Bloom
didn’t know was that he had developed DVT. It was only a
few days after first experiencing the leg cramps that Bloom collapsed
and died of a pulmonary embolism - the result of a blood clot that
had traveled from his leg through his blood stream to his lungs
where it eventually killed him.
This tragic incident has brought light to the serious nature of
DVT and PE, an unrecognized danger that affects millions of adults
who, like Bloom, are by all measures, otherwise healthy. To help
educate the public on the risk of DVT, the American Academy of
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation named March as National Deep
Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month.
Vinay, Sikand, MD, chairman of Pulmonology at Community Medical
Center, said, “There are many reasons a blood clot can form,
including prolonged immobility, trauma, predisposition to blood
clots, as well as other conditions such as cancer, increasing age,
stroke, pregnancy, surgery or respiratory failure. While DVT is
serious, the more serious condition occurs when the blood clot
breaks away from the vein and travels through the bloodstream to
the heart or lungs.”
Dr. Sikand explained that when a blood clot or PE lodges into
the lung, it can often be treated successfully if caught early.
But if left untreated, oxygen flow is limited throughout the body,
which can cause death, Dr. Sikand said.
Symptoms of DVT may include pain, tenderness, cramping, swelling,
discoloration or unusual redness in the lower legs. These symptoms
require immediate medical attention.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of patients with DVT do not
experience any symptoms until a pulmonary embolism develops. According
to Dr. Sikand, signs of a pulmonary embolism can include shortness
of breath, rapid pulse, decreased blood pressure, sweating, coughing
up blood or sharp chest pains. “Any of these signs require
immediate medical attention and you should call 911,” he
To prevent DVT from occurring, stretch your legs as often as possible,
especially in cramped situations such as a long plane ride or during
an illness in which you are confined to bed rest. Maintain a healthy
weight and diet, since obesity can cause DVT. If you smoke, stop.
Talk to your doctor if you are at increased risk for blood clots
due to prescription medications you are taking or family history
of DVT. People who have had DVT in the past are at greater risk
of experiencing it again in the future.
Dr. Sikand said, “If you are particularly concerned about
your risk of DVT, talk to your doctor about preventative screening.
There are many different screening techniques available to monitor
blood flow in the legs. The most common is through the use of ultrasound
to evaluate circulation in the lower extremities.”
For more information on DVT or to find a physician in your area,
call Community Medical Center’s physician referral service
1-888-724-7123 or visit www.barnabashealth.org.
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