(BPT) – What do Serena Williams, Chris Bosh, Regis Philbin and hundreds of thousands of other Americans have in common? They all suffered blood clots -- a common medical condition known as thrombosis.
Thrombosis is responsible for one in four deaths worldwide, but the good news is many, if not most cases, are preventable. That's why it's important to know if you are at risk and learn what you can do to help keep life flowing.
When a blood clot forms in a leg vein, it is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If the clot then moves to your lungs, it is called pulmonary embolism (PE). Together, DVT and PE are known as venous thromboembolism or VTE -- a potentially deadly medical condition that claims between 100,000 to 300,000 lives annually in the United States.
"Thrombosis is a significant public health issue about which many people are woefully unaware," says Dr. Gary Raskob, Ph.D., dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. "Being proactive and knowing the risk factors, as well as being able to spot the signs and symptoms, can be the difference between life and death."
Here are five things you need to know about thrombosis and VTE:
* Thrombosis is often the underlying cause of heart attack, thromboembolic stroke and VTE, the top three cardiovascular killers.
* Going to the hospital? Get better, not a blood clot. People who are hospitalized, undergoing surgery, have cancer or are immobilized for a prolonged period of time are most at risk for VTE. Ask your doctor for a VTE risk assessment anytime you are admitted to the hospital.
* The most common symptoms of DVT are pain, tenderness, redness, warmth and/or swelling in the leg.
* People with a clot in the lung -- a PE -- may experience shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest pain, rapid heart rate, lightheadedness and/or even pass out.
* If you experience any of the symptoms of thrombosis, seek medical attention right away, even if you do not have any known risk factors.
"At the time I was in the hospital, I had no idea how fatal thrombosis can be. It wasn't until a couple of months later, after I had been discharged, that I realized I could have died," says thrombosis survivor Marie-Victoire Cumming. "People should trust their instincts, and go with their gut. Be in tune with your body -- if something feels wrong, it is best to go to the hospital and get it checked."
For more information about thrombosis and VTE, visit worldthrombosisday.org.
* There may be a ticking time bomb in your veins. It's rare, potentially deadly, hereditary, and worst of all, it's most dangerous to expecting and new mothers. It's called Hereditary Antithrombin (AT) Deficiency. It is among the rarest, most dangerous, and most underdiagnosed of all inherited blood clotting disorders. And it's highly unlikely that your OBGYN will test you for it. The statistics are sobering: patients with Hereditary AT Deficiency have a 20-times higher risk of blood clots, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE). One in three pulmonary embolisms may be fatal. Unfortunately if you're pregnant, the risk increases even further. In fact, up to 70% of women with Hereditary AT Deficiency who do not receive preventative treatment may experience blood clotting before or after childbirth. The greatest risk is in the first week post-partum. One thing you can do is be proactive. Bring up AT Deficiency to your OBGYN and ask to be tested before you give birth. If you do need treatment, Thrombate III(R) (antithrombin III [human]) is indicated for the prevention and treatment of thromboembolism. Early diagnosis and preventative treatment could improve your chances for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
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