DVT and Pulmonary Embolism Associated with Factor V Leiden and Other Clotting Disorders

In our last newsletter we discussed the fact that the news anchor, David Bloom, had developed a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which broke loose and became a Pulmonary Embolism which took his life. David had many risk factors such as prolonged immobility, dehydration as well as long-haul flights to Iraq which probably contributed to the development of David’s blood clot. David had a silent risk factor which he did not know about. He had Factor V Leiden – an inherited blood coagulant disorder that can increase a person’s risk of DVT. Factor V Leiden is the most common inherited clotting disorder in the United States.This disorder is present in 2% to 7% of Caucasians, less often in Hispanics and rarely in Asians and African-Americans. It accounts for 20% to 40% of cases of DVT.  Factor V Leiden is usually a hidden disorder, until someone in the family, someone who is athletic and healthy develops a DVT. Screening for Factor V Leiden is not usually done unless there are several members of the family who develop clots or one person develops several. Blood clots from Factor V Leiden can occur anywhere. The factor can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, miscarriage, or gallbladder dysfunction.

There are other inherited conditions which can cause blood clot formation. These include:

  • Prothrombin gene mutation
  • Deficiencies of natural proteins that prevent clotting (such as antithrombin, protein C, and protein S)
  • Elevated levels of homocysteine
  • Elevated levels of fibrinogen or dysfunctional fibrinogen
  • Elevated levels of factor VIII (this is still being investigated as an inherited condition) and other factors including factor IX and XI
  • Abnormal fibrinolytic system

There are other conditions that increase a person’s risk of developing blood clots and do not necessarily indicate a genetic risk. However, you may want to have a serious discussion with your physician about testing for these factors if you have:

  • Several members of your family with blood clots
  • Abnormal blood clotting at a young age (less than 50 years old)
  • Blood clots in unusual locations or sites, such as veins in the arms, liver, intestines, kidney or brain
  • Idiopathic blood clots (no clear cause)
  • Blood clots that reoccur
  • History of frequent miscarriages
  • Stroke at a young age

Just as it is important for you to know your risk factors for DVT, it is important for you to be aware of blood clots in your family history and their cause and wear your support stockings or support socks.

This is the last in this series of March is DVT Awareness Month. We hope you have enjoyed it. If you have missed any, they are all here on our blog, Ask Vanda  just scroll down to view. We would love to have you leave a comment about a DVT you have experienced or about a risk you have from a factor deficiency.


DVT Awareness Continues

Nearly 10 years ago as a way of finding meaning to the death of her husband, David Bloom, Melanie set out to raise the public’s awareness about DVT. In 2003 David (age 39) was a NBC news anchor covering the war in Iraq and unknowingly developed a DVT which broke loose and became a Pulmonary Embolism that took his life. At the time he died only 26% of the population of the United States had even heard of a Pulmonary Embolism. Melanie, sponsored by Sanofi-Aventis (a drug company which makes a DVT Therapy), established March as National DVT Awareness Month and raised the awareness of DVT by 20% in 10 years. Wednesday morning Melanie and Dr.Geno Merli, a clinical professor at Jefferson University and co-director of the Jefferson Vascular Center, were on The Today Show to emphasize the personal risk factors and symptoms of DVT. Some of these risk factors include obesity, age, cancer, medications, injury, surgery, illness, pregnancy, smoking, heredity, and prolonged immobility. Warning signs of DVT include pain, swelling, tenderness, discoloration or redness in the affected area, and skin warm to touch. Symptoms of pulmonary embolisms include shortness of breath, an apprehensive feeling, chest pain, rapid pulse, sweating, or a bloody cough. It is important to know if you have personal risk factors of DVT because 50% of the time there are no symptoms. In the United States, DVT or pulmonary embolism affects 300,000 to 600,000 people a year and 60,000 to 100,000 die each year. Not all of the personal risk factors can be changed, but change the ones you can such as loose weight, quit smoking, become more physically active, and be aware that you are at risk of DVT and Pulmonary Embolism. Above all wear your compression stockings, or socks especially when you travel, have surgery, or become pregnant.


March is DVT Awareness Month 2013 – What You Can Do To Prevent DVT

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is in the 3rd year of a program designed to raise awareness of DVT to women and their families. This year the CDC is focusing on the danger of DVT around trauma and surgery. The program targets women because they are at high risk and because they are very involved in decisions for the entire family. The program makes it clear that Deep Vein Thrombosis can be fatal and urges people who develop symptoms to seek help immediately.

If you anticipate a surgical procedure, you may want to ask if the hospital or physician offers preventive measures such as support stockings and anticoagulant therapy. Do they teach exercises or activities to reduce the risk of DVT? After surgery, as soon as your physician recommends increasing your mobility, do so to help prevent DVT.

According to a study from Oxford University patients recovering from surgery are at a high risk of DVT for much longer than previously thought. In this study it was found the likelihood of a patient to need hospital treatment for a DVT was 70 time higher than the norm. For those who had day surgery, the risk was 10 times higher than the norm. The danger was highest in the third week post-op, but continued for around 12 weeks.

DVT is not limited to women or men nor is age a limiting factor. A DVT can strike people from all walks of life with little warning. So keep your friends or loved ones health – tell them about DVT and how to prevent it by wearing compression hose and following a few tips…

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Exercise your legs regularly when sitting or laying for long periods of time… This can be as simple as making figure 8’s with your feet or just walking for a few minutes
  • When sitting, stretch your legs and change position frequently.
  • Take a deep breath frequently.
  • Elevate your legs whenever possible.
  • Be careful about chairs and leg rests that compress the calf or behind the knee.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake (it dehydrates the body).
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Wear loose, non-binding clothes when traveling.
  • If you have family members with multiple DVT’s and they have been diagnosed as having a clotting disorder, consider being tested yourself.
  • If you are having surgery, discuss the possibility of DVT with you physician. Many physicians are happy that you are proactive.
  • If you are pregnant, wear compression stockings during your pregnancy and for 6 weeks postpartum.
  • Above all…wear compression stocking or support socks to increase your circulation.

If you have had a DVT and would like to share your experience, please scroll to the bottom and leave a comment as a guest.

Spread the word…Most DVT’s are preventable,


March is DVT Awareness Month 2013

I find it very interesting that we all fear diseases such as cancer, AIDS and even being in an auto accident, but few of us have a fear of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE). We really should. Blood clots from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE) cause more deaths than breast cancer, AIDS AND motor vehicle accidents combined. DVT’s are preventable.

There are certain people and certain times in our lives when we have increased risk of DVT. The most common risk factors include:

  • Prior family history of DVT’s
  • Diabetics
  • Cancer
  • Travel – especially long distances with little or no movement
  • Over 40 years of age
  • Over weight or obesity
  • Smoking
  • Surgery
  • Post-partum

Blood clots are usually formed in the deep veins of usually lower extremities (although it can occur anywhere in the body). When this happens, a piece of the clot can break loose and travel through the blood stream to the lung. This is a potentially life-threatening complication of DVT.

The symptoms of DVT may not be noticeable. There may be some pain in the muscle, some swelling, sudden onset of discoloration (bluish, purplish or reddish skin color) and that part of the body may feel warmer. This is not the time to wait. You should visit your primary care physician immediately.

Symptoms of PE can be dramatic. There may be shortness of breath, chest pain (which may become worse with a deep breath), unexplained cough (with or without blood) or unexplained rapid heart rate. This is the time you should go to the emergency room immediately!

More to come next week,