The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 4, 2013

Doctor explains risk factors, preventative measures for blood clots

By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer

Friday, January 3, 2013 — Recently there have been numerous talks about the health of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton was diagnosed with a cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT), a blood clot in her head.

Christina Adams, MD at Albemarle Medical Services explained what blood clots are and how they can potentially present a problem.

“Blood clots are what happens if you were to get a cut; the blood clots so you don’t continue to bleed. Clots are OK in this situation,” Adams said.

“The problem comes when you develop clots in veins that end up blocking blood flow.”

Adams explained that cerebral venous thrombosis is extremely rare and that it is highly unlikely that most people will experience it.

She said CVT can come from head trauma, brain cancer or hereditary clotting abnormalities.

“Mrs. Clinton has a clot in her right transverse sinus, from what I read,” Adams said.

She explained that Clinton’s clot was in the back of the head, behind  her ear, in an area responsible for draining blood from the brain.

“The problem with the clot is blocked blood flow. This can lead to neurological damage, stroke, a pulmonary embolism, heart attack or deep venous thrombosis (DVT).

“This is why Mrs. Clinton is on blood thinners, or anticoagulants. They keep the clot from getting larger or obstructing further,”  Adams said.

Clinton previously was diagnosed with a DVT in 1998.

“DVTs are what people need to be aware of,” said Adams, owing to the fact that this type of clot is more common.

The following are risk factors for DVTs:

Inactivity for a sustained length of time, long trips or other activities that leave one sedentary for six hours or longer;

Having cancer or undergoing treatment;

Being overweight or obese;

A previous history of DVT puts you at risk;

Having a congenital condition that increases risk or inherited clotting abnormalities;

Pregnancy or women who have recently given birth; and

Those on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.

Another factor that does contribute to getting DVTs is smoking.

The most common symptoms of DVTs are swelling, pain, warmth or discoloration of one or both of the legs.

“Say for instance if you just got off a long airplane ride and have discoloration on one of your legs, contact your practitioner right away,” Adams said.

The following are ways to prevent DVTs:

When going on long trips, get out or up every few hours and stretch one’s legs. If on an international trip, get up and walk the aisles of the plane if able, keeping the blood flowing.

If one has to remain seated, rock the feet back and forth, from toes to heel, to keep the blood flowing.

Those who have had surgery, been ill or immobilized should get to moving as soon as they can.

Lose weight if one is overweight or obese.

Don’t smoke. If one is on birth control or estrogen doses and smoking, they need to be conscious that smoking greatly increases chances of DVTs.

“The reason we treat DVTs is because of acute pulmonary embolisms which are fatal. Also we want to prevent more clots or clots getting bigger,” Adams said.

“We can detect most DVTs through ultrasound, which is a non-invasive test.

“If we do notice a DVT, we put people on blood thinners for a period of time,” Adams said.

Blood clots are treatable and can all but be prevented with the proper practices and observances.