What is a blood clot?

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
If you have a blood clot in your leg, you may notice swelling of the affected leg, pain, and others

Blood clots are clumps of blood formed when the blood changes from a fluid to a semisolid form. Whenever you get a cut in your skin, your blood normally clots to prevent further blood loss from your body. However, when the blood clots inside your blood vessels (arteries and veins), it may lead to many medical conditions.

When a blood clot is formed in one of the large veins in the legs or arms, the condition is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

What are risk factors for getting a blood clot in the leg?

Risk factors for blood clots in the leg include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Prolonged hospitalization
  • Confinement to the bed or a wheelchair
  • Surgery
  • Cancer
  • Contraceptives or birth-control medications containing estrogen
  • Age, especially 65 years and older
  • Overweight or obese individuals
  • Smoking
  • Inactive or sedentary lifestyle
  • Estrogen-containing hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Family history of DVT or blood clots
  • Severe injury, especially if it involves a vein
  • Chronic diseases, such as heart and lung conditions and diabetes

What happens if you have a deep vein blood clot in your leg?

  • A blot clot in your leg can hamper the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the affected area.
  • An untreated DVT may cause the clot to grow bigger and break in small pieces that can travel to other organs, such as the heart and lungs, causing serious consequences.
  • The sluggish flow or stasis of blood in the affected area makes it more prone to infection.
  • If the infection and the clot are not treated, they can cause the death of the tissues.

How do you know if you have a blood clot in your leg?

If you have a blood clot in your leg, you may notice:

  • Swelling of the affected leg
  • Pain
  • Reddish or bluish color of the skin
  • The affected area is warm to touch
  • Cramps
  • Difficulty in walking
  • If there is an associated infection, there may be other symptoms such as fever and shivering
  • If the clot has broken and traveled to other organs, there might be symptoms related to the target organ, such as chest pain, difficulty in breathing, nausea, vomiting, confusion, fainting, and/or headache

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What is the treatment of blood clots in the leg?

Treatment options for a blood clot in the leg include:

  • Anticoagulation medicines (blood thinners): These slow the process of formation of new clots and prevent the already formed ones from getting bigger. Blood thinners include:
  • Thrombolytic therapy to dissolve the existing clots.
  • Compression stockings.
  • Surgery.
  • Vena cava filters to prevent the spread of the clots to other body parts.
  • Implantable devices.
  • Management of risk factors, such as cessation of smoking, weight control and regular exercises.

How can you prevent having a blood clot in your leg?

  • Adopt an active lifestyle with regular exercises.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Discuss with your doctor if you have any risk factors for blood clots.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Start a healthy diet.
  • Before any surgery, talk with your doctor about blood clots.
  • Recognize your symptoms and contact your doctor if you develop symptoms.
  • Take a break to stand up and move around every two hours when traveling on a plane, train or car.

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Medically Reviewed on 6/17/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference

Signs and symptoms of blood clots

Understanding Blood Clots

How to Spot and Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis
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