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According to the Surgeon General,blood clots account for at least 100,000 deaths in the United States each year. Are these deaths avoidable? Many say yes. That is why the Surgeon General has a new Call to Action to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolisms (pdf).

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the body,usually in the legs. DVT is a serious conditions because the blood clot that forms in your legs can break away and lodge in the lungs. This is called a Pulmonary Embolism (PE), and occurs when an artery in your lung becomes blocked by a blood clot. In most cases PEs are not fatal, but they are a leading cause of hospital deaths.

The dangers of DVT/PE are not widely known by the general population. The most alarming statistic is that many doctors are ill-informed too. Up to one-third of patients that need treatment for DVT/PE do not receive it. Also, patients can be turned away despite significant signs or symptom.

How do you become one the patients that does not get turned away? Become informed about the symptoms and factors for DVT/PE. There are two major factors that most DVT/PE patients have: genetics and triggering events.

Researchers have found that in most cases, DVT/PE develops in people who have an inherited blood clotting disorder or other risk factor, and who experience a triggering event. Inherited blood clotting disorders are caused by one or more genetic risk factors: Factor V Leiden; Prothrombin 20210; and deficiencies in antithrombin, Protein C, and Protein S. Other factors that raise your risk of DVT/PE are: using birth control pills, pregnancy, post-menopausal women under going hormone treatment, individuals who develop tumors, cancer, obesity, and old age.

The majority of DVT/PE events are related to individuals that have the above risk factors and experience a triggering event. Triggering events usually involves a trauma. A triggering event that involves trauma to the pelvis, legs, spine, hips, and other limbs start the risk for DVT/PE. Trauma to these areas that lead to hospitalization, major surgery, and prolonged period of immobility increase the chances of DVT/PE. Be warned: a triggering event can be less drastic. Prolonged periods of immobility that occur with travel orlife in a nursing home, can also trigger DVT/PE.

What to look for when you have risk factors for DVT/PE. Symptoms of DVT include: swelling of the effected area (usually legs or pelvis), pain (especially in calf), warm spot or red or discolored skin on legs, shortness of breath or pain in breathing deeply. Symptoms of PE include: chest pain or discomfort that worsens with deep breaths, unexplained sudden onset of shortness of breath (most common), feeling lightheaded or dizzy, coughing up blood, and sense of anxiety or nervousness.

What can you do to prevent DVT/PE? It is well known that you’re stuck with the genetics you were given. So to prevent DVT/PE it is necessary to control the triggering events. Avoid prolonged periods of immobility. It is important to move around, especially on those long plane trips or car rides. It can be as simple as shaking your legs or taking that extra rest stop break to walk around.

If you are on a long flight, go to the bathroom. The movement it takes to get up and take that short walk may have get the blood flowing enough to prevent DVT. Exercise also leads to prevention. For many individuals who work at a desk all day, simple exercise such as calf raise will help in circulating blood in your legs. Other activities such as walking or taking the stairs, instead of taking the elevator, will also help. Also, losing weight, quitting smoking and controlling your blood pressure may help prevent the development of DVT/PE.

All the prevention in the world unfortunately can not prevent triggering events such as car accidents. So, what can you do in the event of a traumatic triggering event? Communication is the key. If you have any of the genetic risk factors for DVT/PE notify your nurse, treating doctor, or anybody who is attending to you. Hopefully someone will pick up on the fact that you are susceptible to DVT/PE.

Do not leave it in the doctors hands to come up with that idea. Notify them of your susceptibility and also tell them that this may result in DVT/PE. DVT/PE crosses a large variety of medical fields. Do notexpect the doctor, especially emergency room doctors, to know everything. Also, notify your doctors of any symptoms you are experiencing. The injury from the triggering event may mask symptoms of DVT/PE. It is important to pay attention to any new symptoms. DVT/PE develops after the triggering event and may take a few day toshow symptoms.

The hope is that knowledge of DVT/PE will help prevent many of 100,000 death per year. Many individuals believe that doctors are the ones to save their life in the event of a traumatic event. But by becoming informed about DVT/PE, the individual is the one who may be saving his or her own life.

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