Signs You May Have a Blood Clot
Blood Clot Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
A deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, occurs when a blood clot develops in one of the deep veins of the body. Typically blood clots form in the legs, but they can also occur in the arms. A deep vein thrombosis is particularly dangerous when a piece of the clot breaks off and travels elsewhere in the body where it can cause significant damage. If the clot travels to the lungs, it becomes a pulmonary embolism, which is potentially fatal.
Causes of Blood Clots
A deep vein thrombosis can be the result of a number of factors, including:
- Injuries that damage the veins in the extremities.
- Medical conditions requiring prolonged bed rest.
- Prolonged sitting.
- Hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills.
- Inherited blood clotting disorders.
Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis
You should consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms indicating a possible blood clot:
- Redness and warmth at the site of the clot.
- Swelling in an extremity not caused by an injury.
- Pain or tenderness in the extremity.
- Legs that feel tired or cramp.
The following signs indicate the possibility of a pulmonary embolism and constitute an immediate medical emergency:
- Chest pain or discomfort that worsens when coughing or taking a deep breath.
- Dizziness or fainting.
- Sudden and unexplained shortness of breath.
- Coughing up blood.
- Rapid heart rate.
Approximately 25 percent of individuals who develop a pulmonary embolism die before the condition is diagnosed.
In addition to patient history and symptomology, doctors use a variety of imaging tests to diagnose blood clots, including:
- Duplex ultrasounds—This is a non-invasive and painless test that uses sound waves to create images of the blood vessels to identify possible clots. An ultrasound isn’t always effective in locating very deep clots, such as in the pelvis.
- Venography—This procedure involves injecting a radioactive dye into the vein to allow the doctor to see inside the vessels.
- MRIs—This technique uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create detailed images of the inside of the body.
Treatments for Blood Clots
Anticoagulants, also known as blood thinners, are the first line of treatment for blood clots. These medications prevent existing clots from growing and keep new clots from developing. Initially, anticoagulant therapy is typically given by injection. Common injectable anticoagulants include:
Individuals with blood clots may also require oral anticoagulants for several months. Examples of oral anticoagulants include:
Some oral anticoagulants require the patient to undergo periodic blood tests to ensure they remain at a therapeutic level. In some cases, patients may also have to avoid foods high in vitamin K that can counteract the effectiveness of the medication.
If a patient is unable to take blood thinners, the doctor may recommend inserting a filter into the inferior vena cava located in the abdomen. This filter is designed to keep any pieces of a blood clot from traveling to the lungs.
Preventing Blood Clots
You can reduce your likelihood of developing blood clots by taking the following steps:
- Avoid sitting for prolonged periods. This is especially important if you spend long hours traveling by plane or car. Be sure to make frequent stops to stretch your legs or walk the aisles.
- Make lifestyle changes, including stopping smoking, losing weight, and controlling blood pressure.
- Get up and moving as soon as possible after surgery or prolonged bed rest.