Blood must do the impossible: flow continuously and smoothly throughout the body for an entire lifetime, but quickly “shut off” — or clot — to prevent blood loss during injuries. Blood clots are part of the body’s natural defense in response to injury, yet they can also form when they aren’t needed, resulting in a heart attack, stroke and other serious medical condition.
When a blood clot forms in the deep veins of your arms and legs, it’s called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). You are at increased risk for DVT if you haven’t moved around for a long period of time, such as during a long plane ride or surgery. Other causes of DVT include obesity, pregnancy, high altitudes, advanced age and birth control pills. Seek medical attention if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Discoloration of skin (red or blue tinge)
- Trouble breathing
- Lower leg cramp
- Warm to the touch
Symptoms depend on the size of the clot, which is why you might experience no symptoms at all.
Blood clots are a serious medical condition. Because clots can be life threatening, it’s important to know the signs and get treated right away. You can help prevent blood clots by wearing loose fitting clothing, socks or stockings, don’t stand or sit for more than one hour at a time, eat less salt and exercise regularly.
Diagnosing a blood clot by symptoms alone can be very difficult, so call your doctor if you suspect you might have one. With a noninvasive ultrasound, your doctor will be able to make a more accurate diagnosis.
Treating blood clots typically involves the use of blood thinners to slow down the body’s ability to form new clots and keep existing clots for growing; however, a new option has recently been introduced to help treat blood clots. Doctors are now using catheter devices to destroy stubborn blood clots, using suction to remove the clot, fragmenting the clot into smaller pieces to be absorbed by the body and using balloon technology. If clot-dissolving medications and other treatments are unsuccessful, a thrombectomy (physically removing or breaking up the blood clots) can also be performed, but usually only as a last resort.
Am I a Candidate?
Determine if you are at risk for developing or already have symptoms for venous disease.