Are Blood Clots in Leg Different than Blood Clots in Heart?

When people think of blood clots, they often think of a heart attack.

But they forget that blood clots in leg are just as serious and dangerous as blood cloths in lungs and heart.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 900,000 people in the United States alone affected by blood blots in leg every year [1].

The data also shows that between 60,000 and 100,000 people die from the condition every year.

So, why do we ignore blood clots in leg?

The key to prevention and treatment, as always, is early diagnose.

We will talk about the symptoms, how to easily spot them, and what can you do to stop this life-threatening issue.

What is a blood clot?

Before we get to explain blood clots in leg, we need to medically explain what a blood clot is.

Simply put, a blood clot is a clump of blood that has changed from a liquid to a gel-like or semisolid state [2].

You need to understand that clotting is actually a necessary process that prevents you from losing too much blood in certain instances [3].

For example, when you cut yourself, or you suffer an injury, clotting prevents you from losing too much blood.

However, when a clot forms in one of your veins, it won’t dissolve on its own.

And this is where the danger begins and you are put into a life-threatening situation.

If the blood clot is immobile, the general opinion is that it won’t harm you immediately.

However, the problem is there is a chance that the clotting can move and become dangerous.

If the clot breaks free and travels through your veins, it can reach your heart and lungs.

At that point, it can get stuck and prevent blood flow, which we all know is a medical emergency.

There are two types of blood clots.

Our circulatory system is made up of vessels called veins and arteries.

Both play a role of transporting blood throughout the body.

Blood clots can form in either one of those vessels.

When a clot occurs in your arteries, it is called an arterial clot, and the symptoms require emergency treatment.

The symptoms include severe pain or paralysis of parts of your body.

It almost always leads to heart attack or stroke if left untreated.

A blood clot occurring in the veins is called a venous clot.

Unlike artery clots, a venous clot build up more slowly over time, but eventually become life-threatening.

Signs and Symptoms

Blood clots in leg are also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

They occur when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins, usually in the leg [4].

It can also happen in your arm as well.

The symptoms can be related to deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

You should check with your physician immediately after you notice the first signs and symptoms of blood clots in leg.

The problem is half of the people that have DVT do not see any symptoms until later in stage.

With that in mind, here are the symptoms.

One of the first symptoms you’ll notice is swelling of the leg, or along a vein in the leg.

This is a sign something is not functioning properly.

The swelling is followed by pain or tenderness in the leg.

You will feel the pain either when you are standing, or when you are walking.

Rarely people experience pain in both standing and walking positions.

Probably one of the more uncomfortable symptoms of blood clots in leg is increased warmth in the area.

It gets even worse during the summer months, when the weather is already hot.

The leg might get swollen even more.

Last, but not least, a visible symptom is red or discolored skin on the leg.

By the time this symptom appears, the blood clot is already formed.

How does the pain feel like?

Pain and swelling in the leg is a common symptom for many other conditions.

That is why it is important to make a difference between blood clots in leg, and cramping and muscle aches, for example.

First and foremost, the pain will be felt in one leg only.

That is because you are more likely to have a clot in just one leg, not in both legs.

The pain felt is often similar to the one of muscle cramp or charley horse.

The way you treat the pain will show whether it is a blood clot in leg or something else.

For example, if the leg is swollen, elevating the leg or icing it won’t reduce the swelling.

When icing and elevating makes the swelling go away, you probably have just a muscle injury.

As the clot worsens, the pain will be worse, and the leg will feel warm.

Diagnosis and treatment

Once you notice the symptoms of blood clots in leg, it is imperative that you make an appointment with a health care expert [5].

A doctor will take a look on your medical history, perform a physical exam, and if needed, some extra exams.

There are three common tests to identify DVT [6].

They are ultrasound, arguably the most common and successful test for deep vein blood clots.

Using sound waves ultrasound creates pictures of blood flowing through the arteries and veins in the affected leg.

The D-dimer test measures the substances in the blood that is related when a blood clot dissolves.

If the test shows high levels, you probably have a deep vein blood clot.

If the test is normal and you do fall into the category of risk groups, chances are there is no DVT.

If ultrasound does not provide a clear diagnosis, a doctor will use venography.

During the test, a dye is injected into a vein, and then the physician will take an X-ray of the leg.

The dye makes the vein visible, and an X-ray will help the physician identify whether blood flow is slow in the vein.

Treatment

Treatment of DVT includes medicines, devices, and therapies.

The goal of the treatment, no matter which method you choose is to stop the blood clot from getting bigger, prevent the clot from breaking off and traveling throughout your body, and reducing the chances of another blood clot [7].

The most common medicine for treating blood clots in leg is anticoagulants.

Known as blood thinners, the medicine decreases the ability of the blood to clot.

They will also prevent blood clots from increasing in size.

The problem is blood thinners do not break clots that have already formed.

Risk Factors

Anybody can develop deep vein thrombosis.

But there are certain risk factors that include the chances of having a blood clot in leg [8, 9].

Here are some:

  • If you recently suffered a major injury
  • Age, especially for individuals over 65 years old
  • Obesity
  • Being tall
  • Bed rest or being in sedentary position for long periods of time
  • Lengthy travel, especially trips that cause you to sit for more than four hours at a time
  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer
  • Birth control pills
  • Smoking
  • Genetics

Can you prevent blood clots in leg?

Once you understand the risk factors, you are better prepared to prevent clots from happening [10].

And that is the key.

Of course, if deep vein thrombosis runs in your family and genes, you can only prolong it from happening.

With that in mind, here are some tips that will help you prevent blood clots as long as possible

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes
  • Raise your legs 6 inches from your heart from time to time to improve blood flow
  • Do exercises that a physician prescribes you
  • During a long trip, change your position as often as possible
  • Try to avoid standing or sitting for more than one hour
  • Raise the bottom of your bed by 4 to 6 inches
  • Eat less salt
  • Do not use pillows under your knees

Are Blood Clots in Leg Different than Blood Clots in Heart?

Sources:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/data.html
  2. https://www.webmd.com/dvt/blood-clots
  3. https://natfonline.org/2017/07/emergency-department-first-blood-clot-go-expect/
  4. http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Clots/
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/deep-vein-thrombosis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352563
  6. https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=bloodclot
  7. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/5-blood-clot-facts-doctors-wish-every-patient-knew/
  8. https://www.medicinenet.com/blood_clots/article.htm
  9. https://edition.cnn.com/2017/09/06/health/blood-clots-health-risk-height-study/index.html
  10. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/5-blood-clot-facts-doctors-wish-every-patient-knew/

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