It first starts out as a simple sore calf muscle that you ignore and decide to take that trip outside the country with swollen legs. You would never think it would lead to a life-threatening condition, would you? After the trip, you schedule an appointment to see your doctor for the persistent pain and sluggishness in your leg that you've developed over the trip and you find out that you have large blood clots in your veins. You're immediately hospitalized for the condition and a couple days later you're struggling to breathe and experiencing excruciating chest pains. Unfortunately, the blood clots that formed in your leg have broken off and traveled to your lungs, blocking off the essential blood, oxygen and nutrients needed to survive. This condition is called pulmonary embolism and is very life-threatening.
After the incident, you do some research and discover that even if you belong to the middle aged or younger group brackets you are still vulnerable to deep vein thrombosis or DVT. The chances of getting DVT will increase from a number of risk factors, including taking certain medications, immobility that allows blood to pool in your veins due to prolonged sitting, standing, pregnancy, surgery or trauma such as a car accident, and conditions that increase blood clotting like cancer and autoimmune disorders.
Weeks or even days before the fatal pulmonary embolism breakthrough symptoms may appear, but it is typically misinterpreted as a minor leg sore. Even if deep vein thrombosis is difficult to recognize we need to emphasize education and prevention methods and hope that these measures can help you avoid life-threatening conditions.
Make it a habit to review the medications you are given, such as birth control pills which regulate ovulation and may increase the risk of blood clots. If a person is worried about blood clotting risks, it's best to talk to your physician about non-hormonal contraceptions like the barrier method or copper IUD. Just recently, the FDA announced that testosterone products, like prednisone and other steroidal medication, can raise the risk of getting DVT at high doses.
It is also extremely useful to understand your family medical history and genetics because it is important to know your strengths and weaknesses on a more molecular level to avoid easy injuries and sicknesses. It has been said that your risk increases 50 fold if a person has two or more siblings with DVT. Research even shows obesity, which increases blood pressure in the pelvis and legs, and being tall (> 6 feet), which requires a longer travel time up the veins against the force of gravity, are also risk factors for DVT, among other things.
After being hospitalized, be watchful for the occurrence of DVT, especially post-surgery where general anesthesia is involved because it temporarily widens the veins which allows blood to pool and possibly clot.
Do not ignore the signs of deep vein thrombosis in the legs, such as pain that feels like a pulled muscle, abnormal swelling and leg discoloration (a blue and red discoloration). If the following signs are present, it is best to visit a medical professional for pulmonary embolism: shortness of breath, chest pain, unexplained coughing especially with blood and rapid heart beating.
Disclaimer: This article should not be construed as medical advice. Please contact a licensed physician for a proper diagnosis of your specific case.