Little did I know that my summer plans of playing with the kids by the pool and maybe frolicking at the beach would be suddenly thwarted by a potentially life threatening deep vein thrombosis – a blood clot caused by a rare anatomic disorder I didn’t know I had, called May-Thurner.
This discovery led to several surgical procedures, pain, swelling, internal bleeding and other complications that had me spending the summer in and out of the hospital. Later, in the fall I also was not able to return to work as a teacher with the start of school, required to recuperate and rest instead.
Unknown to me and to most victims who suffer from May-Thurner, until a DVT becomes apparent, is that it most commonly attacks women in their 20s to 40s silently and insidiously. It is caused by the iliac artery compressing on the main iliac vein, causing blood to pool and overtime, develops into a blood clot.
Now, I am 44 years old, active, fit (for the most part) and healthy. I have no known causes or behavior that could commonly cause DVTs, such as smoking and obesity. I have no major health complications. However, on the Fourth of July this year, instead of having friends over to cookout, enjoying the homemade apple pie I had baked, playing in the pool or seeing fireworks, I spent the day at the emergency room, receiving CAT scans, IVs and later being admitted to the hospital. The diagnosis: a deep vein thrombosis, which also can become a serious condition if a blood clot that has formed in the vein breaks loose, travels through the bloodstream and lodges in the lungs, blocking blood flow. This is a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.
My symptoms on the Fourth of July came on quickly with my left leg becoming twice its normal size with swelling that was unilateral and was mottled and lobster red in color. The days prior I complained of leg pain, but I associated it to having some sciatica or pulled muscles from working in the yard, gardening in the heat. But by that Fourth of July afternoon, by the looks of my leg and the way I was feeling, my family convinced me to go on to the hospital. I am glad I took their advice as I was stubbornly trying to treat my leg on my own.
Deep Vein Thrombosis can be life threatening and may come on without expectation. Sometimes they are due to a genetic mutation that makes one predisposed to blood clots. Other times, it may be due to experiencing a prolonged period of inactivity, such as being on long airplane flights or car rides or be the result of an injury or fall.
Here are some warning signs of a blood clot
Swelling of the affected extremity Pain Warmth over the affected area Skin pigmentation changes
Contact a doctor
If one shows signs of a deep vein thrombosis, medical attention should be received. Other signs for a pulmonary embolism, such as chest pain and shortness of breath if one has a DVT, need immediate attention.
While recuperating it is important to follow your doctor’s advice. Which may include:
Limit your vitamin K intake. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables and it can interfere with medication your doctor may prescribe for thinning the blood Don’t go long periods without exercising or moving your legs To prevent blood clots, wear special compression stockings Watch out for excessive bleeding and bruising, especially if you are on blood thinners
*S. Nicole Nichols-Sanders is not a health care provider or professional. This article is based on her personal experience. To find out more about DVTs, please talk to or see a physician.