Deep Vein Thrombosis: The Silent Killer In The Veins

Tennis star Serena Williams battled it and it was the cause of the untimely death of rapper Heavy D and Tommy from the hit show “Martin”. And there are more people who are affected by this than what many realise.

Currently, the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism report highlighted the scope and impactseriousness of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The report stated that as many as 100,000 to 180,000 deaths occur annually due to DVT and pulmonary embolism (PE) in the United States alone. Although many of these events are preventable, there are a large proportion of DVT events that occur spontaneously, without any signs or symptoms. This has led the Department of Health to make the prevention of this “silent killer” across the NHS a priority for the forthcoming years.

Silent does not mean not deadly. So here are five of the top symptoms to look out for:

1. Leg Pain

With large blood clots, pain and tenderness can occur in the leg affected—particularly when standing, climbing stairs, or walking.

2. Swelling

Swelling, particularly around the affected area (i.e., calf or thigh) may occur with a worsening clot.

3. Feverish Skin

Another common sign shows itself in the affected leg with skin that’s warm to the touch or even feverish.

4. Patchy Skin

The leg afflicted with the blood clot may also turn red and patches of discolored skin may develop along the thigh or calf muscle.

5. Bloody Coughing

Sudden and unexplained coughing may occur with bloody mucus within.

You can help prevent blood clots if you:

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes, socks, or stockings.
  • Raise your legs 6 inches above your heart from time to time.
  • Wear special stockings (called compression stockings) if your doctor prescribes them.
  • Do exercises your doctor gives you.
  • Change your position often, especially during a long trip.
  • Do not stand or sit for more than 1 hour at a time.
  • Eat less salt.
  • Try not to bump or hurt your legs and try not to cross them.
  • Do not use pillows under your knees.
  • Raise the bottom of your bed 4 to 6 inches with blocks or books.
  • Take all medicines the doctor prescribes you.

Risk Factors

Estimated risk for developing a DVT (blood clot in the leg) or PE (blood clot in the lung):

Blood Clots: High Risk

  • Hospital stay
  • Major surgery, such as abdominal/pelvic surgery
  • Knee or hip replacement
  • Major trauma: automobile accident or fall
  • Nursing Home Living 
  • Leg paralysis

Blood Slows: Moderate Risk

Older than age 65

Trips over 4 hours by plane, car, train, or bus

Active cancer/chemotherapy

Bone fracture or cast

Birth control pills, patch, or ring

Hormone replacement therapy

Pregnancy or recently gave birth

Prior blood clot or family history of clot

Heart failure

Bed rest over 3 days


Genetic/hereditary or acquired blood clotting disorder

Blood Flows: Average Risk


Younger than age 40

No history of blood clots in immediate family

No conditions or illnesses that heighten clotting risk

Practical Steps to Lower Your Risk for a Blood Clot

  • Ask your doctor about need for “blood thinners” or compression stockings to prevent clots, whenever you are admitted to the hospital
  • Lose weight, if you are overweight
  • Stay active
  • Exercise regularly; walking is fine
  • Avoid long periods of staying still
  • Get up and move around at least every hour whenever you travel on a plane, train, or bus, particularly if the trip is longer than 4 hours
  • Point and flex your toes and make circles with your feet if you cannot move around while sitting for prolonged periods to get your blood circulating
  • Stop at least every two hours when you drive, and get out and move around
  • Drink a lot of water and wear loose fitted clothing when you travel
  • Talk to your doctor about your risk of clotting whenever you take hormones, whether for birth control or replacement therapy, or during and right after any pregnancy
  • Follow any self-care measures to keep heart failure, diabetes, or any other health issues as stable as possible

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