Blood clots in legs may be rare, but they are serious. According to Everyday Health, blood clots in legs or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) affects between 300,000 to 600,000 people in the United States alone.
Furthermore, according to Harvard Medical School, complications from DVT are also responsible for around 100,000 deaths each year.
So, if you sit for long periods at a time, frequently travel long distances, or are under bed rest after surgery, keep reading below! We’ll walk you through the dangers of and risk factors for blood clots in legs, as well as how to prevent and treat them.
DVT is a serious condition which involves the formation of a blood clot, typically in a deep vein in the leg. However, it can also occur elsewhere in the body such as the pelvis or arms.
There are a couple of reasons why blood clots in legs are so dangerous.
Firstly, when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, it disrupts blood flow around the area in which it occurs. According to Harvard Medical School, clots can cause permanent damage to the vein in which it’s lodged.
This condition, called post-phlebitis syndrome, can result in ongoing pain, swelling, or skin ulcers.
Secondly, blood clots can dislodge from the vein, travel through the bloodstream, and settle in a blood vessel in the lungs.
This condition, called pulmonary embolism, can be fatal and can result in death.
According to National Institutes of Health, it can also damage your lungs and create low oxygen levels in your blood by blocking blood flow. As a result, it can also damage other organs in your body.
According to National Institutes of Health, blood clots in legs occur when the blood thickens and clumps together.
Risk factors for DVT include the following:
You may not always experience symptoms if you have a clot. However, a few symptoms of a blood clot in the legs include:
Typically, these symptoms won’t get better over time, which is a further indication that you may have a clot.
Furthermore, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of pulmonary embolism as this condition can be fatal. Signs of this condition include:
1. Exercise and keep moving
While anyone can get DVT, blood clots in legs are fortunately rare and preventable. Here are a few ways in which you can prevent this from happening:
Because your blood pools and thickens into a clot due to long periods of inactivity, it’s important to keep moving 2. This improves circulation in your legs, preventing blood from pooling and clotting.
Whether you’re travelling or working for long hours and movement is limited, ensure you’re moving and stretching your legs to keep the circulation going.
If and when possible, try to get up to stretch and walk around. Ideally, you should aim to do this every hour. If not, try these easy exercises to stop your legs from clotting on airline flights or while you’re at work!
2. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is necessary to prevent blood clots in legs from forming. This is because dehydration can cause blood to thicken, increasing your risk for DVT 3.
Furthermore, according to MedicineNet, dehydration also narrows your blood vessels which also increases the chances of a clot.
Be sure to limit your alcohol or coffee intake, especially when travelling long distances, as these beverages can be dehydrating.
3. Lose weight
Being overweight or obese adds more pressure on your blood vessels. A study by Klovaite and colleagues found that obesity is associated with “higher intra-abdominal pressure and slower blood circulation in the lower limbs.”
According to WebMD,obesity also changes the chemical make up of blood which leads to inflammation.
These factors all contribute to the increased risk of blood clots in legs. That’s why it’s important to lose or manage weight.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s where to find some high protein meals for weight loss!
4. Quit smoking
According to the American Heart Association, smoking damages the lining of the blood vessels and their functionality, increasing the chances for blood clot formation.
Furthermore, study by Cheng and colleagues points out that a “procoagulant state, reduced fibrinolysis, inflammation, and increased blood viscosity” may all be underlying associations between smoking and DVT, as well as pulmonary embolism.
Put simply, smoking causes the blood to thicken, reducing circulation, which predisposes smokers to DVT.
Because DVT can go undetected, it’s important to schedule regular checkups—especially if DVT runs in the family or if you’ve had a prior clot.
If you are diagnosed with one, know that it’s serious and should not be taken lightly.
Typically, your doctor will prescribe blood thinners or anticoagulants like warfarin or rivaroxaban as they decrease the chances of the clot from getting bigger. These medications also prevent the blood clot from breaking off and travelling to the lungs.
Furthermore, compression socks are also helpful both for prevention or treatment. According to MedicineNet, these socks put gentle pressure on your leg muscles, helping circulation.
If the clot is particularly dangerous, you may require thrombolysis, an emergency treatment to dissolve blood clots 4.
There’s also a surgical option called thrombectomy to remove the clot 5.
DVT is a serious but preventable condition. While there are treatment options for blood clots in legs, remember, prevention is key!
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