Blood Clot Awareness Month

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March is Blood Clot Awareness Month

Blood clots, or venous embolisms, can affect anyone: they do not discriminate by age, gender or ethnicity.

A blood clot most often develops in one of the deep veins in the leg, and is also known as Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT.

Each year in Britain, DVT affects around one person in every 1,000. If they are left untreated, about 10 percent of cases of DVT will lead to a pulmonary embolism, where the clot moves in the bloodstream and enters the lung, blocking one of the blood vessels there. This is an extremely dangerous condition.

Although anyone can develop a blood clot, it does become more common over the age of 40.

Ed, alias Clot Stopper™, is the superhero shown here, courtesy of Compression.Solutions. #Dontbeaclot!

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Some of the additional risk factors for developing DVT

• if you have previously had a blood clot
• if other family members have developed clots
• staying still for long periods – such as after an operation or during a long journey
• damage to blood vessels – a damaged blood vessel wall can result in a clot forming
• being pregnant makes your blood clot more easily
• being overweight or obese
• having certain conditions or treatments that cause your blood to clot more easily than normal. These include chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for cancer; heart and lung disease; thrombophilia and Hughes syndrome

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DVT does not always produce symptoms

You won’t necessarily get any advance warning of a blood clot in your leg, which is one reason why prevention is so important.

If you do experience symptoms, they can include:

• pain, swelling and tenderness in one of your legs (usually your calf)
• a heavy ache in the affected area
• warm skin in the area of the clot
• red skin, particularly at the back of your leg below the knee
• DVT usually (though not always) affects one leg. The pain may be worse when you bend your foot upward towards your knee.

A pulmonary embolism shows itself with these symptoms

• breathlessness, which may come on gradually or suddenly
• chest pain, which may be worse when you breathe in
• sudden collapse

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Many blood clots can be prevented

Fortunately, many blood clots can be prevented. If they do occur, early and accurate diagnosis and management can often prevent poor outcomes (death, morbidity, and recurrence).

Long-term strategies for preventing the development of DVT include:

• not smoking
• eating a healthy, balanced diet
• taking regular exercise
• maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you’re obese

There is no evidence that taking aspirin reduces the risk.

Day-to-day, every hour remember to do this:

• Stand up
• Move
• Hydrate

Wearing compression hosiery is prescribed as part of the treatment when DVT is diagnosed. It can also be helpful in preventing clots developing, and keeping your legs comfortable if you spend a long time sitting down – when travelling, or working at a desk, for example.

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Further resources

See more about compression hosiery, and aids to assist with putting on and taking off, on the Moore UK Compression.Solution showcase page

You can find out more about preventing and managing blood clots on the Don’t Be a Clot website (it will open in a new browser window)

If you haven’t yet given up smoking, you will find information to help here

Some suggestions for keeping active if you have reduced mobility

Independent Living’s resident nutrition expert, Mary Farmer, writes regularly about healthy eating. You can find her nutrition blogspot here

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