THURSDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Low levels of iron in the blood are associated with an increased risk of dangerous blood clots that form in a vein, according to the results of a new study that included patients with an inherited blood vessel disease.
The findings suggest that treating iron deficiency may help prevent the condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), according to the researchers at Imperial College London in England.
DVT typically occurs in the legs and can cause pain and swelling, and can be fatal if a blood clot dislodges and travels into the blood vessels of the lungs. Major surgery, immobility and cancer are recognized risk factors for blood clots, but there is no clear cause in many cases.
The new study included 609 patients with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), a genetic disease of the blood vessels that causes excessive bleeding from the nose and gut. Many HHT patients have low iron levels due to the loss of iron through bleeding.
Patients in the study with low iron levels were at increased risk for blood clots, but those who took iron supplements did not have a higher risk. This suggests that treating iron deficiency may help prevent DVT in the general population, the researchers said in a news release from the college.
"Our study shows that in people with HHT, low levels of iron in the blood is a potentially treatable risk factor for blood clots," lead author Dr. Claire Shovlin, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London and an honorary consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said in the news release.
"There are small studies in the general population which would support these findings, but more studies are needed to confirm this. If the finding does apply to the general population, it would have important implications in almost every area of medicine," Shovlin added.
The study is published in the Dec. 14 issue of the journal Thorax.
About one billion people worldwide are believed to have iron deficiency anemia, according to the researchers.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about deep vein thrombosis.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: Imperial College London, news release, Dec. 14, 2011
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