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Experts Spotlight Major Killer on World Thrombosis Day

FILE - Susana Reyes sits in her living room. Reyes suffered a thrombosis attack in April 2012 which left her left hand and left leg partially paralyzed.

Thrombosis is the world's third leading cause of cardiovascular death after heart attack and stroke, but most people have never heard of it. Medical experts hope that will change after Monday, which they have declared World Thrombosis Day.

An estimated one to three people per one thousand develop venous thromboembolism, caused by a blood clot in the leg. The danger occurs if the clot, unnoticed, travels to the lungs and chokes off blood flow.

Gary Raskob is with the University of Oklahoma Health Center’s College of Public Health, and is chairman of the World Thrombosis Day Steering Committee, which is highlighting the dangers of thrombosis.

“In about a third of the cases and most of the deaths, the initial presentation is sudden death. And for that reason, prevention is the key to reducing death from this condition,” said Raskob.

Venous thromboembolism is sometimes called the “sitting disease” because a clot usually develops when people are inactive for a long period of time, such as when they are sitting on an airplane or in a wheelchair, or recovering from surgery in the hospital. Other risk factors include cancer and medications containing the hormone estrogen.

Raskob said individuals with concerns should speak with their health care providers and know the symptoms.

“For clots in the legs, pain, tenderness or swelling, redness or warmth of the leg. And for crossing the lungs, shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid breathing, a sudden rapid heart rate, or sometimes collapse or passing out of the patient if it’s a very big embolism,” said Raskob.

The International Society of Thrombosis and Hemostasis is leading the global awareness effort to educate the public about the potentially deadly blood clots.

World Thrombosis Day is being recognized by more than 100 medical and patient organizations. Five medical journals are publishing comprehensive reviews about the global burden of thrombosis.

Raskob says early recognition is very important, because anti-clotting drugs are very effective in treating this silent killer.