Blood clots in the leg are commonplace. There were more than 600,000 cases of blood clots in leg in the U.S. diagnosed last year. Clots are extremely dangerous because pieces can break off and enter the bloodstream.
The proper medical term is deep vein thrombosis. A blood clot in leg symptoms and treatment are pretty straightforward. In this article, we will examine DVT and what to do if you suspect you have one.
What Is a Blood Clot?
The proper definition for a blood clot is a semisolid mass of blood that has coagulated. Clots can also have a gelatinous appearance. As platelets and plasma proteins in the blood thicken, they form a mass that is semisolid. In many cases, blood clots are brought on by an injury. Sometimes, they arise when no injury has occurred, like inside the blood vessels.
Once a clot has formed, they often travel to other parts of the body. There are many risk factors for developing these masses. They are a family history of clotting disorders, heart failure and arrhythmias, obesity, taking oral contraceptives or hormone therapy drugs, sitting for a prolonged period, malignancy, smoking, a recent surgery, stroke and pregnancy. The hormones released during pregnancy cause an increase chance of clot development.
Blood clot in leg symptoms and treatment will vary based on the size of the clot and the location. For deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or a clot in the leg, the signs are often swelling, a warm sensation across the leg, fever, rapid heartbeat, aching, and inability to walk without great pain. A DVT may lead to phlegmasia alba dolens in which the skin color is pale. Even worse is phlegmasia cerulea dolens in which the skin color is blue.
Quick Care or ER?
When it comes to blood clots, it is better to be safe than sorry. Any symptoms at all of such a medical emergency should be handled accordingly. An urgent care setting would not be able to handle such a serious problem.
The emergency room is the best place to go. If the clot or any pieces of the coagulation breaks off and enters the bloodstream, it can go to the lungs, heart or brain. Only a hospital is equipped to help in this situation.
A blood clot in leg symptoms and treatment can be tricky to self-diagnose. This is why you need medical attention. In many cases, it is difficult to determine if you have a pulled muscle or a clot.
Muscle sprains can cause pain when walking, along with swelling. However, they usually do not cause the area to be warm. Clots often make the leg feel as if it has a fever. Here are some red flags that should send you straight to the hospital:
- Difficulty in walking with one leg.
- Intense pain.
- The leg feels feverish.
- The skin color is pale or blue
- Personal/family history of clots.
- You take blood thinners for similar issues.
- History of high blood pressure/hearing problems.
- Shortness of Breath
Diagnosing Blood Clots in Leg
At the hospital, the medical team will usually work quickly if they think there is a possible blood clot. The use of diagnostic equipment is necessary. An ultrasound machine is the easiest way to identify deep vein thrombosis.
Though the ultrasound is the most non-invasive diagnostic tool, it is not always full-proof. When this machine does not work, they will use a more invasive procedure called the venography.
A color contrast dye is injected into the body. This way, doctors will be able to spot any areas where blood flow is compromised. An MRI may also be used.
What Will Your Doctor Ask?
Before any testing, the medical team will want to ask numerous questions. They want to know if there is any family history or if you have had issues before with clots. Other risk factors, like smoking cigarettes, are also important. They need to know any medications that you take as well as any pre-existing medical problems.
Some conditions, like atrial fibrillation, tend to cause clots. They may want to put you on a control medication to prevent clots in the future as well as determine blood clot in leg symptoms and treatment.
What Will Your Doctor Look for?
During the testing process, an ultrasound will be able to detect the blood flow restriction. Since this machine is used in pregnancy, it is sensitive and can detect womb sounds and heartbeat. For the leg, it can also detect the sound of blood flowing. When moved around the clot, the blood flow is halted. Therefore, the machine can indicate a lack of movement.
In venography, a dye is injected into the leg. Using a video X-ray machine, the radiologist will look for the stain to fill the veins and then travel back to the heart. If the dye stops in one location, it is the area of a clot.
For blood clot in leg symptoms and treatment, your doctor may also do some blood tests. As the blood clot begins to break down, it releases d-dimer into the bloodstream. Blood tests can identify this marker to show there is a clot present in the body. It is important to note that d-dimer levels are increased throughout pregnancy. Thus, this test may not be used to diagnose clots during pregnancy.
Though all of these tests are great tools, a well-trained doctor can identify a clot based on touch and appearance of the leg. Therefore, it is important to head straight to the hospital when you feel something wrong in your leg.
What Is the Treatment for a Blood Clot?
Blood clot in leg symptoms and treatment are pretty straightforward. The goal is to keep the clot from moving into the bloodstream and the lungs. The use of anticoagulant drugs such as Low Molecular Weight Heparin (LMWH) is the first method of treatment. LMWH is ideal during pregnancy since the medication does not cross through the placenta and hurt the baby.
Another class of medications called Xa inhibitors (such as Rivaroxaban and apixaban) may be used. If the clot is due to a malignancy, a Vitamin K antagonist is a good option for therapy.
Clot buster drugs (thrombolytics) can begin to break down the clot quickly. These are only used when the situation is severe due to the number of side effects. When there is imminent danger of the clot breaking off, surgical intervention may be necessary.
Blood Clot Treatment Duration/Recovery Time
It takes about five days for the blood thinners to work. Recovery time can be as soon as a week with these drugs. When surgery is required, it can take a couple of weeks to be back to work. They encourage walking whenever possible to keep the blood moving. Compression stockings are also suggested during and after the clot is dissolved. A medication used for extended treatment is Dabigatran.
A blood clot in leg symptoms and treatment vary significantly because of the size of the clot and its location. The long-term use of anticoagulant drugs is almost always necessary once you have been diagnosed with a clot. If you feel that you may have a blood clot, you must have it checked out immediately as time is of the essence.
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