It shouldn’t come as a surprise to residents of Maquoketa and elsewhere that blood clots can be dangerous, even fatal in some cases.
Although research is ongoing, it is known that blood clots are fairly common and could potentially affect anyone, regardless of age, whether someone is receiving traditional care or hospice care.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice encourage people to take care of their limbs and recognize the potential signs of danger and take action right away.
We also invite people to know the risk factors, which, if they have several, might require them to be extra vigilant about looking for possible signs of clots before it’s too late. Even if you know the basics, you might be surprised that there could be other causes or warning signs you might not be aware of.
For instance, patients battling cancer might also not realize that their condition could play a role in their susceptibility to certain types of clots. If you have concerns or want more information be sure to contact your health care provider.
What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
A blood clot within a vein is called a deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. These often start in a leg, thigh, or sometimes an arm, when a clump of blood turns into something solid. The clot could be related to an injury, some medications, surgery, or extended periods of inactivity for that affected body part.
In the immediate area, the clot can cause pain, swelling, and warmth, and discoloration of the skin around the affected area.
What’s particularly concerning is if some or all of the clot comes loose and moves into the bloodstream. If it lodges somewhere like the heart, lungs, or brain it could block blood flow or oxygen and cause permanent damage, such as a stroke or cardiac event. Or it could cause arteries or veins to burst, causing other internal damage. If it moves to the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism, which is dangerous.
Some medications can reduce the risk of DVTs, such as blood thinners. Wearing compression socks can also improve circulation and lower risk. Regular exercise is also another way to reduce the risk. This can be as simple as getting up and walking around hourly if you sit all day.
People with chronic DVTs may be asked to consider filters being applied, which are small devices that are implanted in certain veins that are designed to keep clots out. This is more invasive than compression socks or blood thinners but may be more effective.
If you already have a clot or believe you have one, seek help immediately. There are various invasive and less invasive methods to break a clot up or remove it before it can enter your bloodstream. An ultrasound can detect them easily.
DVTs and cancer
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 900,000 people have clots in the U.S. each year, and 1 in 5 of these are related to cancer or cancer treatment.
Some cancers do increase the chances of blood clots developing, and the higher the stage of cancer, the higher odds for blood clots.
The Mayo Clinic states that some types of cancer can generate certain substances in the blood which make blood easier to clot and overall increase the risk of someone creating a DVT. Certain cancers, including the kidney, pancreas, ovary, stomach, lung, or colon have the highest rates of DVT. Plus, clots are a common side effect of leukemia, liver cancer, and lymphomas.
The risk of a clot is higher in the first few months after a cancer diagnosis.
At the same time, many treatment methods can increase the risk of clots, such as certain chemotherapy or radiation treatments that can affect the body. Procedures that involve injections, such as chemo, can also increase the odds of risk. Or even sitting for hours while chemo or radiation is applied can increase the risk.
Sometimes, patients might be exhausted from cancer treatment and cancer in general, which will make them less likely to go out and exercise, further increasing risk factors.
There are some other ways cancer can be a factor in the possibility of developing DVT.
People battling cancer or being treated for it are often encouraged to wear compression socks as a general precaution against DVTs, whether or not they currently have them.
March is considered Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month. It’s observed annually to let people know about the possibilities of DVT and learn to lower their risk. Health care practitioners also use the month to educate their patients and other community members about the different risk factors and what they can do to keep them low.
In some people, clots can be hereditary, but there are other risk factors that be lowered. Quitting smoking, for instance, can reduce one’s risk and increase overall health. Staying active can also be useful.