What is a blood clot and how do I know if I have one?
A blood clot, or “Deep Vein Thrombosis”, is a condition that happens when blood forms a solid mass (a ‘clot’) in a vein deep within your body. This is most common in a thigh or calf, but can also occur in your upper body. Blood clots are dangerous because they can come loose, move through your bloodstream, and become lodged in your lungs (a pulmonary embolism). A pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency intervention.
What are the symptoms of blood clots?
Below are the general symptoms of a blood clot. However, approximately half of those who are diagnosed with blood clots, don’t experience any symptoms. It’s important to know the risk factors (listed in the prevention section) and discuss your health with your physician.
In the legs, symptoms of a blood clot are:
- pain (especially in the calf)
- skin may be warm to touch in the affected area
For the upper body, symptoms are similar, but in the shoulders, neck, and arms:
- Unexplained swelling in the arm or hand
- Pain in the neck or shoulder
- Bluish skin coloration
- Unexplained weakness in the hand
Symptoms of blood clots are similar to cellulitis and peripheral vascular disease, so they are considered in conjunction with known risk factors (such as recent long travel, smoking, women taking oral contraceptives, sedentary life style, etc.).
How can I prevent blood clots?
Blood clots can occur for a variety of reasons, including injury, surgery, inactivity, smoking, your medical history, or certain medications. Those who are overweight, have high blood pressure, smoke, or are inactive for long periods of time are more prone to blood clots, as well as those who are taking birth control, have had a vein injury, or previously have experienced deep vein thrombosis.
Prevention of blood clots falls into three categories: moving, changing your lifestyle, and talking to your doctor.
Moving: exercise and regular movement help prevent blood clots by keeping your blood moving through your veins. Moving your legs around or walking after you’ve been sitting for a while, and making sure you get regular exercise, promotes vascular health.
Changing your lifestyle: Quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, losing weight (or maintaining a healthy weight) and checking your blood pressure regularly are all ways to help prevent blood clots.
Talking to your doctor: If you have a family history, a necessary medical procedure, or take a medication that predisposes you to blood clots, talk to your doctor about prevention methods that are appropriate for your medical situation.
Neighbors Emergency Center staff can handle any and all emergencies, including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms. If you are concerned you may have a blood clot – don’t wait. Visit your nearest Neighbors location for an evaluation.