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Heart & Vascular Health | Vascular (Peripheral Arterial Disease)
blood clot

A Rare Disease That’s More Common Than You Think

Factor V Leiden is a blood clotting disorder

When people think of blood clotting disorders, Factor V (“Five”) Leiden isn’t the first one that comes to mind. But it could be more common than you think.

As many as 3-8 percent of all people who have European roots carry the gene mutation, and it is the most common inherited blood clotting disorder, also known as thrombophilia. It is rare in African-Americans and Asians.

With Factor V Leiden thrombophilia, your blood has a tendency to form abnormal blood clots that can block your blood vessels. Though Factor V Leiden doesn’t automatically cause blood clots, it does increase any existing risk factors you already have. There are many risk factors but the more common ones include cancer, prolonged immobilization, following surgery, pregnancy, hormone therapy, injury or trauma. Anyone who has increased risk factors should talk with their doctor about how to improve their odds to keep healthy blood flowing smoothly.

Select few experience blood clot symptoms

Your blood has substances in it that help you stop bleeding when you cut yourself or you get injured. These substances are not supposed to clump up in the arteries or the veins under normal circumstances, though. The faulty gene in Factor V Leiden increases the likelihood that clots can form in blood vessels where they are not wanted.

Blood clots that form in blood vessels can be dangerous when they block blood flow to the legs (deep venous thrombosis) or break off and travel to the lungs where they can cause a pulmonary embolism, a medical emergency.

Not all people who have Factor V Leiden develop blood clots. In fact, only 10 percent of all those with the disorder ever experience any blood clotting problems.

Reducing your risk

John R. Bartholomew, MD, Section Head of Vascular Medicine and Director of the Thrombosis Center at Cleveland Clinic, says that patients should keep news about the mysterious-sounding disorder in perspective. “Factor V Leiden is a relatively uncommon condition even among the population group most often affected by it,” he said.

Though you are unlikely to have the pair of genes that cause Factor V Leiden, it’s always a good idea to assess your risk factor for cardiovascular problems.

Some things that increase your risk for blood clots are beyond your control, such as recovering from surgery, having certain diseases or being injured, but other risk factors are within your control.

Dr. Bartholomew says, “Everyone should act to eliminate any risk factors that are under their control, namely quitting smoking, losing weight, and being physically active. This is especially important for patients who have thrombophilia. They should also notify all of their doctors if they have this condition.”

Factor V Leiden provides a good reminder to people to pay attention to the risk of blood clots, and how important it is to help avoid them by changing some bad habits, exchanging them for healthy ones instead.

Tags: blood clots, genetics, heart and vascular institute, heart health, thrombophilia, vascular disease
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  • Kimberley Conrad Junius

    I had a DVT that resulted in multiple PEs 10 days following abdominal surgery. Lupus-like anticoagulant was positive. My blood was retested for lupus-like anticoagulant before and after being off blood thinners and both times was negative. How do I find out if I’m positive for Factor V Leiden?

    • Betsy Pear

      By blood test. Good luck ! Hope you are feeling better

  • Tammy Lagoski

    One of the disease involved with this disorder is Avascular Necrosis.
    How can one find out if the do have Factor V Leiden?

    • Sylvia

      Tammy, have your doctor do a blood panel rest specifically for Factor V Leiden. Certain family members of mine found they do have this blood disorder after experiencing problems, but after simple blood tests it was found I don’t.

    • Betsy Pear

      FV5 has nothing to do with Avascular Necrosis.
      A blood test will tell you if you have FV5.
      LUPUS FACTOR and LUPUS are two entirely different diseases.

  • Kathy

    What is the lupus factor. I am of Slavic descent and several years ago I was very I’ll with sepsis and bed ridden for almost a month. During this time I was put on a blood thinner and the hematologist said I would be on ths blood thinned ths rest of my life. Is this the same A Factor V?

    • Medical Doctpr

      No actually this is not the same….what you have is called anti-phospholipid antibodies or factor :)

  • Wendy French

    Hi my name is Wendy, back in 2009 I woke up one morning with horrible pains in my side felt like I had broken ribs, I waited for 3 days went to er and found out I had a blood clot in my lung I was in ICU for 6 days where they discovered a clot in my leg too, my question is I went to hematologist and did all the blood work and nothing came back wrong, I had no surgeries I wasn’t injured , it just happened, now I am stuck on warfarin for the rest of my life, I’m only 47, what could of caused this?

  • Wendy French

    If your are taking warfarin for blood clots like I am, how likely is it too get another blood clot? Is it possible, my doctors says you can’t but I have other doctors say you can.

  • Wendy French

    Can someone please answer my question