Blood clots: raising awareness of the silent killer

9 December 2016

Venous thromboembolisms (VTE), more commonly known as blood clots, are often a silent condition with no obvious symptoms or signs. They can strike anyone of any age or gender and can sometimes be mistaken for less serious conditions.

A VTE is the result of the blood’s clotting mechanism malfunctioning and blood becoming a solid mass in a vein or artery, restricting the flow of blood which in extreme cases can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Most blood clots form during or shortly after a stay in hospital but there’s also an increased risk for people who:Young woman ties up her trainers preparing for a run

  • are dehydrated
  • are aged over 60
  • are overweight or obese
  • have had a blood clot before
  • are pregnant or have recently given birth
  • are having cancer treatment or who have cancer
  • are undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • have a condition which causes blood to clot more easily

Symptoms can include:

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a cramping pain, redness, warmth, or swelling in a leg
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE) – breathlessness, chest pain, coughing up blood, fainting

Anyone developing these symptoms should see their GP or even visit the nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department as soon as possible. If caught in time, blood clots can be treated using anticoagulants, compression stockings or filters fitted into a vein. Click here to take an online VTE test that assesses your risk.

Statistics show that:

  • One in every thousand people are affected by VTEs in this country every year
  • One in every thousand pregnant women will develop thrombosis which can lead to related long term health problems
  • Up to one in 10 people who suffer a pulmonary embolism will die if not treated
  • One in three surgical patients can develop thrombosis if preventative measures are not taken

As most VTEs are acquired in hospital people about to be admitted are advised to:

  • keep mobile
  • lose any excess weight
  • tell their doctor if they take HRT or the combined contraceptive
  • Whilst in hospital patients should:
  • wear compression stockings
  • move around as soon as possible
  • take blood-thinning medicines if offered
  • stay hydrated by drinking drink plenty of fluids
  • wear any other compression devices provided

By increasing awareness among healthcare professionals and the general public, the charity Thrombosis UK aims to help people develop a better understanding of the risk of thrombosis, which it hopes will lead to more assessments being done. This could lead to better prevention and help to reduce the need for management of the condition.

More information about blood clots can be found on the NHS Choices website.