Blood Clot Causes
A blood clot can be much more than something that forms when you get a cut or scrape, and can actually become a serious medical problem. The discovery of a blood clot in your leg can lead to severe health problems if left untreated.
What are the Common Causes?
Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), commonly known as a blood clot, occurs when a gel-like mass consisting of platelets and fibrin forms in the blood to stop bleeding. If a blood clot forms incorrectly inside a deep artery or vein, especially in your leg, it can hinder blood flow and create further problems.
A blood clot may form in your veins if you:
- Have long periods of immobility
- Are a smoker
- Are 65 or older
- Are currently undergoing cancer treatment, or are a survivor
- Are taking hormone medications such as birth control
- Have had a recent surgery
- Have had a stroke or are paralyzed
- Have an existing heart condition
- Have had a blood clot before, or have an inherited blood-clot disorder
As you can see, blood clots can affect nearly anyone. The CDC said anyone who is on a flight for 4 hours or more is susceptible to being diagnosed with DVT.
If you suspect or discover there is a blood clot in your leg, you will need to get a professional diagnosis and decide on a treatment plan.
You may have a blood clot in your leg if you see or feel swelling, skin redness, soreness, pain, or an area warm to the touch. Life-threatening complications can arise from an untreated blood clot, and you should seek treatment as soon as possible if you suspect you have one.
Upon visiting your doctor, they will go over your medical history and perform a physical evaluation. If they suspect you have a blood clot, it will be confirmed using an imaging test called duplex ultrasonography. It uses sound waves to look at blood flow and detect blockages or blood clots in deep veins and arteries.
Not everyone goes through the same treatment for a deep-vein blood clot. Treatment can include:
- Anticoagulants: The most common treatment for a blood clot is anticoagulants or blood thinners. They work by reducing the body's ability to form new clots and preventing existing clots from growing larger. Anticoagulants can be given in the form of pills or intravenous injections. Some individuals may take them only for the clot's duration, or longer to prevent new clots from forming.
- Thrombolytics: Thrombolytics are only recommended for individuals whose blood clots did not respond to basic anticoagulants or have extensive clots. They work by dissolving blood clots but can increase the risk of bleeding. Thrombolytics are only administered by a catheter or intravenous injections.
- Surgery: Very rarely, an individual may have to undergo surgery. A surgical thrombectomy may be necessary for massive clots or clots that are damaging the surrounding tissues. As long as you seek early treatment for a suspected blood clot, this treatment is easily avoided.
You and your doctor will make the best choice while considering factors such as your age, overall health, and clot location.
What to Expect with CVM When Treating a Blood Clot?
At the Center for Vascular Medicine, our mission is to help patients with their vascular diseases in a cost-effective and compassionate manner. We specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of venous and arterial diseases in the legs, feet, and pelvis. Our world-class providers are the most experienced in the specialty and work with patients to develop a treatment plan that is custom-tailored to their unique situation.
Typically, this process involves an initial consultation and ultrasound scan at one of our accredited facilities. After reviewing the results of your scan and obtaining a thorough medical history, our providers will discuss the results with you and help you decide on the next steps.
Our health care providers use several diagnostic tests to help determine what vascular diseases may be causing your symptoms. Our initial evaluations utilize ultrasound because this non-invasive imaging modality helps us verify our suspicions on whether your symptoms are caused by underlying vascular disease.
Most patients who seek out medical care in a reasonable amount of time recover within several weeks or months of treatment, without any complications.
When Should You Call a Vascular Doctor Versus Going to the Emergency Room?
If a blood clot goes unnoticed, it poses the danger of dislodging from your leg and traveling up to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. The embolism can block blood flow to the lungs, causing permanent damage.
Symptoms you're experiencing an embolism include chest pain, altered vision, difficulty breathing, and palpitations.
If you're experiencing extreme pain from a DVT or suspect that you're suffering from an embolism, go to the emergency room immediately. Vascular doctors should only be called when you notice symptoms early on and aren't experiencing any extreme pain.
Can the Blood Clot Be Dissolved?
Naturally, your body has its own process to dissolve blood clots, which it does by using a protein called plasmin. When your body senses that your wound has healed and the blood clot is no longer needed, it activates the plasmin, which dissolves the clot.
Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, only work to increase blood flow and prevent the existing clot from growing; this gives your body additional time to activate the plasmin. On the other hand, thrombolytics do dissolve an existing blood clot, but this also increases the chance of bleeding.
Medications most commonly prescribed to help treat DVTs include heparin, an injection, and warfarin, a pill. The type of medication a patient may need depends on many factors; patients with active cancer need to be treated with a lower molecular weight.
After you've visited the doctor and have been prescribed an anticoagulant, there are other remedies you could be following at home to help the treatment. Taking regular walks to stimulate healthy blood flow and elevating the affected leg above the hip are the easiest and most common remedies.
You can also wear compression stockings, which help battle postthrombotic syndrome (PTS), a condition that causes damaged blood vessels to become swollen and painful.
Compression stockings are worn over the foot and extend up to the calves or groin; they work by helping blood flow move from the lower legs back to the heart. They are available over-the-counter or by prescription.