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Deep Vein Thrombosis Common, Often Misdiagonsed In Young Women

Posted July 10, 2001

— An ankle sprain, cramp, or other leg pain is usually nothing to worry about. Sometimes it can be a sign of something more serious.

One young woman is raising awareness of a common, but often ignored, condition.

Miranda Fowler always dreamed about being Miss North Carolina. In 1999, while training for the pageant, her life and her dreams were turned upside down.

"When I got out of the car I completely froze. I couldn't take another step," says Fowler. She thought she was suffering from a leg cramp, but then the swelling started.

"It was about three times its normal size, discolored and hot," she says.

Fowler went to the emergency room where she was told she had a blood clot in her leg.

Deep vein thrombosis

, or DVT, is a blood clot that develops in the blood vessels of the leg. It can cause pain and swelling, but nearly half of patients do not feel anything.

"The real danger is if a piece breaks off and travels to the lung, causes shortness of breath and chest pain. If it's a really large blood clot, than it can actually kill you," says Dr. Stephen Moll, a hematologist at UNC Hospitals.

Moll says most people associate DVT with the elderly, but Fowler is proof that young women are also at risk.

"It is particularly in [young women] where it is often misdiagnosed because people do not think about it," says Moll.

Anti-clotting medications, like Coumadin, are used under close, doctor's supervision to help dissolve the clot.

Fowler recovered in time to place third in the 1999 Miss North Carolina Pageant. She has not had another clot since, and uses her experience to raise awareness about the condition.

"Yes, it can happen to you," says Fowler. "Know your family history and pay attention to your body."

Deep vein thrombosis can run in the family. The condition is diagnosed through ultrasound.

Women who are pregnant, going through menopause or are on birth control pills are at a higher risk. Others at risk include smokers, and people who are obese or bedridden.


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