Factors involved in my DVT
In order of probable importance:
Third generation contraceptive pill (Mercilon)
I never really settled on the pill: on the first day of taking it after my gap week I would usually wake with terrible nausea throughout the night. I had constant breast pain (I was terrified I was going to develop breast cancer) and had severe symptoms of PMT for two weeks out of four. In hindsight I think the symptoms of PMT had a lot to do with my diet and the mild hypoglycaemia I’d had my whole life. So after about a year on the regular pill I returned to the doctor and asked for a different variety. She put me on a third generation pill, Mercilon, which has a much higher risk of causing DVT. I didn’t really know about this, unfortunately, I had only the vaguest conception that it was somehow more “dangerous” than normal pills, or any idea of the court cases following the scare in the mid nineties. Six months later I was back in her colleague’s office with a DVT.
Heterozygous Factor V Leiden gene
heterozygous Factor V Leiden gene (mild inherited thrombosis), combined with use of contraceptives greatly increases likelihood of clotting. I would like to point out here that I and many others with this gene are victims of corporate sociopathy and medical incompetence.
- Oestrogen increases the tendency to clot, which is why women can be at a greater risk of DVT during pregnancy.
- Progesterone does not increase the tendency to clot and may counteract the tendency of oestrogen to clot in a fertile female body.
- The synthetic progesterones (progestins) found in the third generation pill increase the clotting tendency of blood significantly more than older comparable synthetic progesterones.
- Natural clotting-free progesterone is found widely in nature and is easily and cheaply synthesised in a lab from natural sources. Artificial progestins are not used because they are better than natural progesterone. They clearly have higher risks associated with them. They are used because they are patentable, and this increases pharmaceutical companies’ profits. This is what I mean by corporate sociopathy.
- In spite of the tests available there is no recommendation for screening for clotting factors prior to prescribing oral contraceptives. This is cited variously due to cost (only around £25 per patient, hardly an amount that would break the bank), and “emotional distress” that may be caused to women who cannot take the pill when they find out they are Factor V Leiden positive (and have their lives saved). In response, let me point out that the progesterone-only pill has very little risk of increased clotting associated with it, and remind you that the availability of low-risk natural progesterone is not limited. Also, considering the “emotional distress” of FVL positive women who are hospitalised, permanently disabled and even killed by DVT and pulmonary embolism, I find these “reasons” (AKA excuses) offered by medicine both patronising towards women and derisory.
Thus we have corporate sociopathy and medical incompetence: the deaths of a few “genetically flawed” individuals hardly count in the big scheme of the pharmaceutical industry’s profit drive. At this point I am considering the sad deaths of so many haemophiliacs due to AIDS infection after the contamination of their blood transfusions during the eighties: do you think there are just a few pharmaceutical execs up there thinking “oh well, they were broken anyway, so that’s Darwinism for you… we increased our profits this year by another 10%, yey for us”? What if these women as a group were considered “disabled”? Or what if FVL was a gene associated with being Jewish or black? Would corporate execs still be happy to wipe out a set of people for their patentable pseudo-progesterone profits? No. There would be an outcry. It is a disgrace, and like most human rights disgraces, it is happening to women.
Office clothing policy
Programmers have a much greater tendency than most office workers to work very intensely in front of the PC, forgetting to take breaks due to the involved nature of their work, and often work long hours of overtime simply for the pleasure of it. As a rule, programmers prefer wearing jeans or jogging bottoms for comfort’s sake whilst they work. Unfortunately the company I worked for introduced a fascist clothing policy that extended to the usually exempt IT/IS department a few months after I began working for them. Smart clothes: shirts, smart trousers or skirts, ties for men. Admittedly, I chose the clothes I wore. I am allergic to an awful lot of fabrics and virtually anything but cotton made me itch, which is why I happily wore loose jeans. But try getting hold of smart trousers that have some stretch in them, but are not woollen or synthetic. I ended up with some pairs of smart thick cotton material boot-cut trousers that slowly shrank in the wash, constricting my upper legs and contributing to my poor circulation.
Redundancies: stress, dehydration and stillness.
I always said there was enough work for one and a half people in my job. Originally I wrote a system and worked on it alone apart from a DBA, and I was able to work through requests at my own pace. Then two more people were taken on and the requests and deadlines system was formalised. The requests increased exponentially due to the advertising of the new requests system by the management. Then my workplace announced redundancies and the two new people in my team were made redundant, and I was left with a backlog of requested work. Fair enough, I had always managed before.
Such was my desire to prove myself in the face of the rest of my team being made redundant, that I worked extremely hard. One of the guys who had been made redundant had been earning several thousand pounds more than me, yet had contributed absolutely nothing of value to the team other than to be completely destructive, and this irked me. I wanted to get a good pay review and “prove” myself as a programmer. My job title was still “web designer”, which the company refused to change because of the redundancies. This effectively left me with no choice: I would be left with nothing if I left to find another programming job, as my reference from Insight would refer to me as a web designer.
I was eager to seize the opportunity to prove myself when a large request came in, and pushed by circumstances I put myself under extreme pressure to complete the work by the very tight deadline given me by the management, which in my eagerness I agreed to. As a result I found myself working eight hours straight some days without ever getting up from my chair. I didn’t get up and exercise or get anything to drink, and dehydration and long periods of stillness increase the likelihood of getting a clot. Furthermore, the stress I was experiencing at work probably increased my homocysteine levels, and homocysteine in turn increases the clotting power of blood.
Poor diet and nutrition
At the time, I was on a vegetarian diet, and not a “healthy” one. I was eating ready meals and not substituting missing protein. I was getting a lot of MSG, and glutamate is involved in the clotting cascade. I was probably very low on vitamin B12, a lack of which also increases homocysteine. I was eating excessive amounts of empty carbohydrate (starch, e.g. root vegetables and pasta). A high carbohydrate diet causes women’s hormones to skew in favour of oestrogen (even to the point of infertility), depresses the immune system, and increases insulin levels, thus further throwing out the balance of hormones in my body. Moreover, a diet low in protein and fat and high in carbohydrate stresses blood-sugar levels, increasing cortisol levels and therefore homocysteine levels, and again, an increased tendency to clot.
Notes from October 2007
I don’t think there’s anything I need to add to this article, other than I expect I probably have genetically high homocysteine levels as well due to MTHFR/MTR/MTTR polymorphisms.
As you can see I was pretty furious to have been put in this situation by modern medicine. It was one of my first experiences of how drugs can do more harm than good.