Blood clots affect more men than women, but women face a continuum of blood clot risks unique to their gender, including birth control and family planning, pregnancy and childbirth, and the treatment of menopause symptoms later in life. Learn more about the link between women’s health, estrogen, and blood clots here.
Blood Clots affect close to one million people every year in the United States.
Blood clots that develop in the deep veins of a person’s legs or arms (known as deep vein thrombosis or a DVT), can break off and travel to the lungs (known as pulmonary embolism or PE), where they can be life threatening.
About 100,000 people in the U.S. lose their life due to a blood clot every year.
There are many factors that can increase a person’s risk for blood clots. Obviously, the more risk factors a person has, the greater their risk for blood clots.
Therefore, understanding that you might be at increased risk is an important first step on the path to prevention.
The risk factors for blood clots include:
Hospitalization and surgery, hospital stays of three days or more
Trauma or injury to the veins
Pregnancy and up to six weeks after delivery
Birth control methods with estrogen, and the treatment of menopause symptoms with estrogen
Cancer and some form of its treatment
A personal or family history of blood clots
Genetic or inherited clotting disorders, the most common being factor V Leiden
Certain chronic conditions like heart failure, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes
Immobility, sitting too long, bedrest, paralysis,
Confinement while traveling long distances
Age greater than 60
Obesity or body mass index (BMI) greater than 30
BLOOD CLOT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The symptoms of blood clots often mimic the symptoms of other injuries and illnesses. For example, the pain of a blood clot in a person’s leg might be mistaken as a pulled muscle, or breathing difficulties due to a blood clot in the lung might be mistaken for asthma or anxiety.
This is why it is crucial to know your blood clot risks and also recognize the symptoms of blood clots.
BLOOD CLOTS IN LEG OR ARM
The most common signs and symptoms of a blood clot in the leg or arm include:
Pain Swelling Skin that is warm to the touch Redness or discoloration of the skin
Contact your healthcare provider or seek medical care right away if you experience any of the symptoms of a blood clot in your leg or arm.
BLOOD CLOTS IN LUNG
The most common signs and symptoms of a blood clot in the lung include:
Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath Chest pain, especially with a deep breath Coughing or coughing up blood Faster than normal heart rate
Seek immediate medical help, call 911 or go to the emergency room, if you experience any of the symptoms of a blood clot in your lung.
Up to 30% of people with a blood clot in their leg will not experience any symptoms, and in about 25 percent of people who experience a blood clot in their lung their first symptom is sudden death.1
CAN YOU SPOT A CLOT?
Because they often mimic the signs and symptoms of other ailments, blood clots can be difficult to diagnose. It’s important to be able to recognize blood clot signs and symptoms so you can seek care promptly.
It can help to have a simple visual tool or pattern to commit this type of information to memory and to then have a more quick way to identify potential blood clot symptoms. With health awareness or education efforts, simplicity is known to be the best approach. The Rowan Foundation came up with a simple educational tool that uses just two letters — S and C — to help people “Spot a Clot,” or to be able to identify quickly the most common and potentially life-threatening symptoms of a blood clot. This image demonstrates this simple approach, using just these two letters.
You can view and download a printable copy of this tool here.
SELF CARE AND PREVENTION
To reduce your risk of developing blood clots, you can:
Avoid sitting for long periods of time.Get up and move, stay active. If you travel by airplane, for example, walk the aisle periodically. Also, during long car trips, stop and walk around about every two hours.
After you’ve had surgery or been on bed rest, the sooner you get up and move around, the better.
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, because dehydration can contribute to the development of blood clots.
Lose weight, lower high blood pressure, stop smoking, eat less salt, and exercise regularly.
Wear loose-fitting clothes, socks, or stockings.
Raise your legs six inches above your heart from time to time.
Do not stand or sit for more than one or two hours at a time. Do not sit with legs crossed.
Wear special stockings (called compression stockings) if your doctor prescribes them.
Take all medicines your healthcare provider prescribes.
To learn more about hormonal contraception and clotting, click here.
Read the personal stories of women affected by blood clots, click here.
Get more information about the Rowan Foundation, click here.