The body’s blood clotting mechanism serves an important purpose by stopping the flow before serious blood loss can occur. Normally, when the blood clot does its job, it dissolves harmlessly. However, sometimes a blood clot won’t fall apart on its own, leading to serious medical complications and deaths.

Charles S. Thompson, M.D., F.A.C.S., board-certified vascular surgeon at Vascular Specialists of Central Florida, Inc. says, “One of the most common reasons patients come to visit is for blood clots in the legs.” Because of this, it’s important for us to understand why blood clots, which are normally so beneficial, cause harm at times.

Are there common symptoms that could be a warning that you’re developing a blood clot? How are these issues treated and what can you do to prevent them? We have answers that will help you understand the symptoms of a blood clot in the leg.

What Is a Blood Clot?

A clot of blood happens when the liquid solidifies into a semisolid or gel state. Clotting is the body’s way of preventing you from bleeding out when you’ve been cut or injured. A blood clot is normally good for the body and doesn’t harm you. But when the blood clot doesn’t disappear on its own, it can travel along veins to your lungs, causing serious harm.

A blood clot in the vein is called a venous clot. One of the most serious types of blood clots is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Deep vein thrombosis can occur most commonly in the legs. Dr. Thompson says DVT can be associated “with periods where that patient has been at rest for a long time, such as on a long plane trip or car trip.”

What Are the Symptoms of a Blood Clot in the Leg?

You may not notice any symptoms of the blood clot at all; 50% of people with DVT have no signs. However, Dr. Thompson says, “Blood clots usually present with a painful, swollen leg.” You may also experience tenderness, warmth, and a reddish discoloration. It may feel like you have a charley horse or cramp in your leg.

If you have trouble breathing, it could mean that the blood clot has moved from your leg to your lungs. You may cough up blood or feel dizzy. Any of these symptoms are worrisome but when they happen together it’s time to call 911 for immediate medical help.

Why Would I Develop a Blood Clot in My Leg?

Blood Clot in the LegThere are several risk factors that could cause you to develop a blood clot in your leg, including a long-term hospital stay where the body is lying still for lengthy periods. Other known risks are:

  • Being over 65
  • Being overly sedentary or on bed rest
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Cancer
  • Family history of clotting disorders
  • Long periods of travel in a car or plane where you’re sitting more than four hours at a time
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Some types of birth control pills

The blood clot, no matter where it forms, can cause a variety of complications that could be quite dangerous. For example:

  • Postphlebitic syndrome, which damages the veins in an area affected by the clot
  • Pulmonary embolism, occurring when a blood vessel in the lung is blocked by a clot
  • Treatment complications as a result of blood-thinning medication

How Is a Blood Clot in the Leg Diagnosed?

When the patient’s history and physical exam point to the possibility of a blood clot, the most common diagnostic test ordered is an ultrasound. This is non-invasive, can be performed in our office, and provides immediate results. In some circumstances additional testing may be needed, however this is not common.

How Would a Blood Clot in My Leg Be Treated?

Dr. Thompson says, “When the patient comes into the office and we make that diagnosis, we do a confirmatory test, such as an ultrasound, and then prescribe them some medication.” However, he also says, “In some of the more advanced states, they may have to actually undergo a procedure to remove or dissolve the clot.”

The goals of blood clot treatment are threefold:

  • Stop the clot from enlarging
  • Stop the clot from breaking loose and traveling to the lungs
  • Stop whatever risk factor caused the blood clot to form in the first place

Dr. Thompson and the team at Vascular Specialists of Central Florida, Inc. are devoted to your health. If you have any concerns or think you may be experiencing symptoms, please contact us today.

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