What are thromboembolic diseases?

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Basic information about venous thromboembolism (blood clots)

blood clot
Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (DVT and PE) are conditions that are often underdiagnosed and serious, but preventable.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein. These clots usually form in the lower legs, thighs, or pelvis, but they can also appear in the arm.

It’s important to know what DVT is because it can affect anyone, causing serious illness, disability, and in some cases, death. The good news is that it can be prevented and treated if caught early.

Complications of deep vein thrombosis
The most serious complication of DVT occurs when a piece of the clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing a blockage called a pulmonary embolism (PE). If the clot is small, with proper treatment the person can recover from PE. However, it can leave sequelae in the lungs. If the clot is large, it can prevent blood from reaching the lungs and is fatal.

In addition, about a third of people with DVT will experience long-term complications from clot damage to the valves in the vein, known as post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS). People with the post-thrombotic syndrome have symptoms such as swelling, pain, discoloration, and in severe cases, scaling or ulcers on the affected body part. In some cases, the symptoms can be very severe and disable the person.

DVT and PE can become chronic diseases for some people.

Risk factors for deep vein thrombosis
DVT can affect virtually anyone. However, some factors increase the risk of developing this condition. The chances are even higher for those who have more than one risk factor at the same time.

The following is a list of factors that increase the risk of developing a DVT:

Injury to a vein, often caused by:
serious muscle injuries; either
major surgery (particularly if it involves the abdomen, pelvis, hips, or legs).
Slow blood circulation, often caused by the following:
prolonged bed rest (eg, due to illness or after surgery);
limited movement (eg, from wearing a leg cast to help an injured bone heal);
sitting for a long time, especially with your legs crossed; either
Increased estrogen level, often caused by the following:
contraceptive pills;
hormone replacement therapy, sometimes used after menopause;
pregnancy, for up to 6 weeks after delivery.
Some chronic conditions, such as the following:
heart disease;
lung disease;
cancer and its treatment;
inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis).
Other factors that increase the risk of developing a DVT include:
previous DVT or PE;
family history of DVT or PE;
age (risk increases with age);
presence of a catheter in a central vein;
hereditary bleeding disorders.

Prevention of deep vein thrombosis

The following tips can help prevent DVT:

Start moving around as soon as possible after you’ve been in bed for a while, such as after surgery, illness, or injury.
If you are at risk for deep vein thrombosis, talk to your doctor about the following:
Graduated compression stockings (sometimes called “medical compression stockings”).
Medications (anticoagulants) to prevent thrombosis.
After sitting for a long time, such as during a trip of more than 4 hours:
Get up and walk around every 1 to 2 hours.
While sitting, exercise your legs as follows:
Raise and lower your heels keeping the balls of your feet on the floor.
Raise and lower the balls of your feet while keeping your heels on the ground.
Tighten and loosen your leg muscles.
Wear loose clothing.
You can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, and following your doctor’s recommendations based on your particular risk factors.
Everyone should know the signs and symptoms of DVT and PE, know if they are at risk for them, talk to their doctor about this risk, and seek immediate medical attention if any of the signs or symptoms of these two conditions occur.

Deep venous thrombosis
About half of people with deep vein thrombosis do not have any symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of DVT that occur in the affected part of the body:

touch sensitivity
redness of the skin
If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.

pulmonary embolism
You can have a pulmonary embolism without any of the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis.

Signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism may include:

difficulty breathing
irregular or faster than normal heartbeat
chest pain or discomfort that is usually made worse by taking a deep breath or coughing
coughing up blood
very low blood pressure, dizziness or fainting
If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
The diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism requires special tests that only a doctor can perform. This is why it is important that you seek medical attention if you experience any of the symptoms of these conditions.

Treatment of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
Deep venous thrombosis
Medications are available to prevent and treat deep vein thrombosis. Compression stockings (also called graduated compression stockings) are sometimes recommended to prevent DVT and to relieve pain and swelling. They may need to be used for 2 years or more after having a DVT. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to remove the clot.

pulmonary embolism
Immediate medical attention is needed for the treatment of pulmonary embolism. In cases of severe, life-threatening pulmonary embolism, there are medications called thrombolytics that can dissolve the clot. Other medications, called anticoagulants, may be prescribed to prevent future clots from forming. Some people may need to be on long-term medication to prevent clots in the future.

Did you know?
DVT does not cause heart attacks or strokes. There are two main types of blood clot.
The way a clot affects the body depends on its type and location:

Blood clots in a deep vein in the leg, pelvis, and sometimes the arm are called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This type of clot does not cause heart attacks or strokes.
Blood clots in an artery, usually in the heart or brain, are called arterial thrombosis. This type of blood clot can cause heart attacks or strokes.
Both types of clot can cause serious health problems, but they have different causes and require different protective measures.

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