Signs of Blood Clots in Your Legs

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Signs of Blood Clots in Your Legs
(Barry Austin/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Knowing the signs of blood clots in your legs can save your life. These blood clots embed themselves in the upper or lower legs in one of the deep veins. When a blood clot is present, blood circulation is blocked in the affected veins. This prevents blood from travelling to and from the heart. Typical signs of a blood clot in your legs include pain, warmth and swelling.

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Signs and Symptoms

The skin on the affected leg might have a whitish or bluish discolouration, and redness might also occur. Leg pain associated with a blood clot typically worsens when the patient bends their foot. Leg cramps might occur, typically at night. The pain associated with a blood clot in the leg typically has a gradual onset, and some patients might not experience any symptoms.

Causes and Risk Factors

The causes and risk factors of developing blood clots in your legs include trauma that affects the inside of a blood vessel, hypercoagulability and a change in normal blood flow, such as a complete or partial blockage of blood flow or unusual turbulence. Prolonged rest, recent lower body trauma, prolonged sitting, obesity, heart attack, recent childbirth, heart failure, being at high altitudes, certain rare inherited genetic changes that affect blood clotting, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, disseminated intravascular coagulation, advanced age, certain respiratory or heart conditions and recent surgeries may also lead to blood clots.

Treatment

Patients who have had blood clots in their legs are often prescribed anticoagulants to thin the blood and to help prevent future blood clots. In rare instances, a patient's blood clot might need to be dissolved with a "clot-busting" medication to reverse the symptoms of a blood clot within six to 12 hours of its formation. A filter might be placed into the inferior vena cava to prevent future blood clots in the legs in patients who cannot take anticoagulants. When a large blood clot is present that is heavily obstructing the vessels, a surgical procedure called a thrombectomy might be performed.

Prevention

The best way to prevent blood clots in the legs is to avoid or reverse risk factors. Obese patients need to lose weight, elevate legs when lying or sitting, avoid prolonged sitting and immobility and avoid high doses of oestrogen unless they are absolutely necessary. Take all medications associated with blood clot prevention as directed and be sure to be as mobile as possible when recovering from surgery. Some patients might benefit from special stockings and sequential compression devices.

Outlook

The majority of all blood clots that occur in the legs resolve on their own. It is a fact, though, that about 20 per cent of untreated blood clots in the legs that are located in the upper leg do embolize to the lung, which proves fatal in 20 per cent to 30 per cent of patients. More than 90 per cent of all potentially fatal pulmonary emboli are a result of blood clots in the legs.

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