A condition known as Deep Vein Thrombosis kills more Americans every year than Aids and Breast Cancer combined. But not many people know about it.
So vascular experts have set aside the month of March as Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month, hoping to bring more attention to the condition. It can strike anyone at any age.
Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. The clot is usually in the legs, but can occur in the pelvis or arms.
"The problem with DVT is not just the fact that its blocking the blood flow back to the heart and lungs," Dr. Bud Shuler from the Vascular Association said. "But sometimes those clots can break loose and lodge in the blood vessels that go into the lungs."
Research shows DVT affects 2 million Americans a year, Shuler said.
"There's about 600-900 thousand blood clots that occur in hospitalized patients every year. Up to a third of those 200- to 300 thousand people die because of these clots," he said.
DVT is typically caused by one of three things:
* the blood is thicker than it should be, such as when you're dehydrated.
* The vein the blood travels through is damaged,
* Or the blood is static-- not moving, mostly due to inactivity.
"It's one of the top three to five leading causes of death in the United States, but because it's not easily recognized people don't pick up on it," Shuler said.
It can strike without someone even realizing it, including NBC reporter David Bloom who died while on assignment in Iraq.
“He was cooped up in the back of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He was dehydrated because he was in the desert. So he's all cramped up, bloods thicker than normal, He's not active. He steps out of the vehicle to give a report, the blood clot gets squeezed from his legs goes to his heart and lungs and unfortunately he died right there on the spot," Shuler said.
Although it can strike without warning---there are some symptoms.
*Pain or tenderness in the legs, *swelling or discoloration of the affected area, *or skin that is warm to the touch.
Dr. Shuler works closely with local primary care providers. Quickly getting patients into the vascular lab and if they do have a blood clot there are medicines that help right away.
"Most blood clots do not need to be treated in a hospital, They can be treated as an outpatient," Shuler said.
Doctors advise people on long flights to get up periodically and walk. And if you're in the hospital either have a compression machine on your legs or walk.