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What are your chances of developing deep vein thrombosis like actress Rui En did?

Deep vein thrombosis or DVT is often thought of as the condition associated with air travel. You sit too long in a fixed position on the plane and a blood clot occurs in a vein deep in your leg.

But since actress Rui En revealed she developed a DVT in a vein behind her clavicle or collarbone last week, causing her right arm to swell and bruise, all bets are off that these clots are only confined to your lower extremities. Here’s a look at what DVT is and whether it can happen to you.

WHERE ELSE CAN THE BLOOD CLOTS OCCUR?

These rogue obstructions are most likely to occur in the lower leg, thigh or pelvis, where the veins are injured, although some clots can happen in the arm, brain, intestines, liver or kidney, according to Cleveland Clinic.

For Rui En, a DVT had developed in a vein behind her clavicle or collarbone, causing the blood supply to her right arm to be cut off. The initial signs of the emergency, as shared by the actress on Instagram, were swelling, bruising and mottling on her arm.

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WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Not every DVT case shows symptoms, according to KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Only about half of patients have signs, which can include the same ones that Rui En encountered as well as pain or tenderness, and increased warmth in the area.

If the clot travels to the lungs and creates a potentially fatal situation known as pulmonary embolism (PE), the patient may instead experience chest pain when taking deep breaths, rapid pulse, fainting, shortness of breath and coughing up blood. When DVT and PE occur together, it’s known as venous thromboembolism or VTE.

HOW COMMON IS IT?

DVT occurs 15.8 per cent in every 10,000 patients in Singapore, according to a study published in Annals by Academy Of Medicine, Singapore. It is thought to be common – 14 per cent – in local patients who have undergone total knee replacement.

DOES HAVING VARICOSE VEINS INCREASE YOUR DVT RISK?

A 2018 study published in Journal Of The American Medical Association showed that varicose vein patients had a five-time greater risk of developing DVT, even though different types of veins are affected in each condition.

Varicose veins, for instance, lie just underneath the skin. DVT affects veins that are located deep in the muscles. Researchers concluded that more work is needed to understand the link between the two issues or whether they share a similar origin.

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CAN YOU DEVELOP IT?

DVT is often the result of a vein injured by fractures, muscle injuries, surgery, certain chronic diseases involving the heart and lungs as well as cancer and inflammatory diseases.

Age is another contributing factor, according to the American Heart Association. For instance, DVT’s incidence is less than 1 per 10,000 in people under age 40. But the rate increases to 1 per 100 in those over the age of 75. It is thought that age thickens the valves in the veins – their purpose is to ensure blood flows towards the heart – and causes blood to pool.

An increased oestrogen level (oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy for treating post-menopause, for instance) may also lead to a higher level of blood-clotting proteins which, in turn, can increase the likelihood of clot formation.

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