Womans dangerous blood clot misdiagnosed as pulled muscle

British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots

Our blood needs to clot a certain amount to prevent excessive bleeding when we get a cut. However, blood clots that don’t naturally dissolve are cause for concern. This is because they can travel around the body, reaching vital organs.

For example, blood clots in the brain could cause a stroke, and those in the lungs can lead to a pulmonary embolism.

This was the case for one woman from the US, who was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism in 2003 at the age of 34.

Beth Waldron, shared her story via the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in a bid to raise awareness of blood clot symptoms.

“My clots were not immediately diagnosed,” she explained. “Neither I nor my health care provider recognized my symptoms as due to a blood clot.”

Both her initial symptoms of leg pain and shortness of breath were mistaken for something else.

She said: “The leg pain associated with my deep vein thrombosis (DVT) was initially attributed to a pulled muscle.

“The chest pain and shortness of breath associated with my pulmonary embolism (PE) was initially diagnosed as a respiratory infection for which I was prescribed antibiotics.

“Only after a second painful PE episode nearly a week later were the correct diagnostic tests performed and an accurate DVT and PE diagnosis obtained.”

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Deep vein thrombosis refers to a blood clot in a vein – usually in the leg.

Common symptoms include throbbing, swelling and warm skin in the area.

Whereas a pulmonary embolism is a blocked blood vessel in the lungs, which can be life threatening if not dealt with quickly.

This can cause someone to have sudden difficulty breathing and to cough up blood.

Beth was hospitalised for nine days following her diagnosis during which time testing revealed that she had a genetic predisposition to clotting, due to the Factor V Leiden mutation.

She said: “This mutation, along with starting oral contraceptives, likely contributed to my clotting episode.”

She was prescribed blood thinning medication to prevent more clots occurring.

“Today, I remain on blood thinners and will likely do so for life,” Beth said.

“Fortunately, I am doing very well and in good health. I feel very fortunate to have survived my clotting episode and am fully recovered.

“As a result of my experience with blood clots, I am now heavily involved in promoting greater blood clot education for both patients and health care providers.”

The NHS advises calling 999 if you or someone you know experiences:

  • Severe difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the chest or upper back
  • A very fast heartbeat
  • Or if someone has passed out.

“These could be signs of a pulmonary embolism or another serious condition,” it says.

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