As many as 600,000 people are affected by deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) every year, and more than half of those are never diagnosed. Some people experience swelling and varying levels of discomfort in the affected area, and some don't feel anything at all.
But the symptoms of DVT can be similar to other conditions, like a pulled muscle, and because some people with DVT do not have any symptoms, there is often a delay in diagnosis. That's when DVT can be fatal.
The Vascular Disease Foundation and Spirit of Women@, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are launching This is Serious, a national campaign to drive awareness and action around the prevention of DVT and PE in women. The campaign encourages women to be alert to DVT/PE symptoms, and to talk to their doctors about their risks.
"While it may seem counterintuitive, hospitalization may be the biggest risk factor for developing a DVT/PE," said Suman Rathbun, director of vascular medicine at the University of Oklahoma and one of the main investigators for the grant. "That's because any injury to body tissues, whether due to surgery or trauma, stimulates the body's natural clotting process."
DVT is an abnormal blood clot in one of the deep veins in the legs, and is caused by a number of factors. In many cases these clots can be painful. But some people don't have any symptoms at all, which makes diagnosis difficult. What's worse, sometimes these clots break loose and travel to the lungs, causing a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism.
Anyone can develop DVT. The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk. Risk factors include hospitalization, recent major surgery or injury, personal or family history of a clotting disorder or DVT, cancer and cancer treatments, pregnancy, use of hormone replacement therapy or birth control products, extended bed rest, prolonged sitting when traveling, obesity and smoking.
"We are pleased to partner with the Vascular Disease Foundation and Spirit of Women, on the 'This is Serious' campaign," said Hani Atrash, MD, Director of the Division of Blood Disorders at CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "There are times during a woman's life when she is at greater risk for DVT/PE and this campaign provides women with critical information, to help them identify the symptoms and consult their doctors."
Many cases of DVT can be prevented through regular activity, healthy eating and talking to your health care provider about preventing blood clots before any surgical procedures or hospitalizations. You should also tell your health care provider if you have any risk factors for DVT.
"When diagnosed and treated early enough, most DVTs aren't life-threatening," said Sheryl Benjamin, Executive Director of the Vascular Disease Foundation. "However, many people don't know their risks or the symptoms, and often put off seeing their health care provider even when they feel pain. Through this campaign, we are educating patients and supporting health care providers in evaluating and treating their patients."
This is Serious was developed by the Vascular Disease Foundation and Spirit of Women@, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The This is Serious campaign, rolling out this fall, includes TV public service announcements, an educational video and a tool kit to aid partners in spreading the word about DVT/PE on the local level. For more information visit www.thisisserious.org
Spirit of Women@ Spirit of Women is a national network of hospitals, healthcare providers, corporate partners and media formed to promote educational initiatives for women and their families. Programs are implemented throughout the United States and address health topics such as menopause, cancer, incontinence, diabetes, heart disease, healthy pregnancy, and many more. To learn more about Spirit of Women, please visit spiritofwomen.org.