Blood clot or Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the leg is a condition that shouldn’t be taken lightly. By some estimates, about 900,000 people in the US are affected by DVT every year. More alarmingly, DVT is the probable cause of up to 100,000 deaths.
There are a few risk factors for DVT. The condition might appear on its own but it is often associated with other vascular diseases. Either way, one should have a better understanding in order to spot the first signs of blood clot in leg.
What’s more, early detection is the best way to prevent complications. The following gives you an overview of the condition. Let’s start with the obvious.
What Is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
The cause of deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot, or thrombus, that forms in a vein. It is much more common in deep veins, such as those found in the thigh or lower leg. While not as common, veins in the pelvis and in some rare cases, the arm, may also have blood clots.
Blood clots in the leg are dangerous because they obstruct normal blood flow in the affected veins. This means that blood can’t circulate properly from the heart to the lower extremities and back. The first signs are warmth in the leg, swelling, and pain.
In addition, DVT may cause thrombophlebitis or inflammation of the affected vein. Further complications occur if the thrombus embolizes and starts traveling through the bloodstream. It can then block other veins or arteries – most notably in the lungs, causing pulmonary embolism. This severely obstructs breathing and may even lead to death.
Signs of Blood Clot in Leg – What to Look for
DVT in the leg usually starts with swelling that’s accompanied by acute pain. Both the pain and the swelling may develop slowly depending on the size of the blood clot and the affected vein in the leg. The symptoms that follow are redness and warmth. In some cases, the skin may become discolored.
Those who suffer from the condition often feel cramps. DVT particularly affects the calf area but it’s not limited to it. In addition, the cramps can get worse during the night and the pain might become excruciating when the patient bends the foot.
Common Risk Factors
There are plenty of risk factors that can cause blood clots in the leg. Some people might be prone to the condition due to hereditary blood clotting disorders. DVT also comes as a result of other diseases or injury.
For example, blood clots in the leg may appear after a long bed rest since it limits normal blood circulation. In addition, those who had surgery can also be more susceptible to blood clots. And those over 60 years of age have a higher DVT risk.
On the other hand, there are a few habits and lifestyle choices that may contribute to the formation of blood clot. Smokers and overweight individuals are usually the most susceptible. Excess weight puts additional strain on the lower extremities and smoking obstructs normal blood circulation. Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are at a greater risk as well since their leg muscles don’t contract often enough.
Diagnosing Blood Clots in the Leg
It is paramount to seek medical help as soon as the first symptoms appear. DVT can be diagnosed easily and early detection usually leads to successful treatment. Doctors utilize a few methods to detect blood clots.
Doppler ultrasound is the most common noninvasive procedure to measure blood flow in the lower extremities. It basically calculates and shows the speed of blood flow in the veins. In addition, this technique can also indicate aneurysms and blocked arteries and pinpoint valves that aren’t functioning properly in the lower extremities.
A slightly more invasive method is venography. It includes the use of special dye injections and taking fluoroscopy – x-ray images of the veins in your legs. Venography is quite effective at locating blood clots and deep vein thrombosis, especially if ultrasound could not produce clear results.
Medical professionals might also employ impedance plethysmography or CT scans to confirm the diagnosis of blood clots in the leg. Impedance plethysmography takes precise measurements of blood volume changes in veins and arteries. CT scan, on the other hand, creates sectional images of the affected area and can be used to pinpoint the location of the blood clot.
Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment
DVT treatment is usually personalized to each patient and it can depend on the patient’s current health status and other medical conditions. In general, the doctor would prescribe a blood thinner. The drug can prevent the formation of more clots and reduce the risk of embolism.
Anticoagulation (blood-thinning) treatment often involves two stages. Patients receive injections to start thinning the blood immediately and this is often combined with oral medicine. On the other hand, mild DVT might not require any medication at all and some patients may need to wear compression stockings to prevent further complications.
How to Prevent DVT
Taking up regular exercise and being as active as possible are good ways to thwart DVT. The same advice applies to those who have undergone surgeries or have been bed-ridden due to injury. In such cases, the activities would be determined by a physician.
Making some lifestyle changes wouldn’t hurt either. Losing weight and quitting smoking might be easier said than done but it’s a sure way to significantly reduce blood clot risk.
The Final Leg
By now, you should have a much better understanding of the signs of blood clot in leg.
Albeit potentially life-threatening, there are proven treatments for deep vein thrombosis. Nevertheless, it’s always good to be one step ahead of the disease and make the necessary lifestyle changes even if you don’t have any symptoms.