A blood clot occurs when blood congeals. If this happens inside a person's body, including their leg, it can cause severe problems. Some blood clots are especially dangerous as they can travel to a person's lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism that can be fatal.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) note that the symptoms of a blood clot in a person's leg include swelling, red skin, pain in the leg, or the leg feeling warm to the touch. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if a blood clot happens in a larger vein, this is a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
The AHRQ say that blood clots are more likely to occur if a person is unable to move around a lot. This can be due to surgery, an injury, or sitting down for an extended period, such as on a long-haul flight.
Symptoms of a blood clot in the leg may include swelling and pain. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, blood clots or DVT can cause obvious symptoms. However, they also note that DVT does not always have any associated symptoms. Symptoms include:
Swelling: If a person develops a clot in their leg, it may swell up so that it is much larger than the other leg.
Red skin: The skin on their leg may also become red or discolored.
Pain: They may experience pain in the part of the leg where the blood clot has developed.
Warmth: The swollen, red skin may feel warm to the touch.
When to see a doctor
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a person should contact their doctor immediately if they suspect they have DVT. This is because DVT can result in a pulmonary embolism, where the blood clot moves to a person's lung. The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:
shortness of breath
pain when breathing
increased heart rate
A pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate emergency treatment.
According to the AHRQ, risk factors for a blood clot include:
having had surgery recently
being older than 65
taking birth control hormones
being treated for cancer, or having had cancer
having a broken hip, pelvis, or leg
having a bad bruise
staying seated or in bed for long period
had a stroke
having a port in their body through which a doctor administers medicine
having issues with veins
having heart problems
having had a blood clot previously, or family members who have had blood clots
A person can prevent blood clots by avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. According to the CDC, the best way to prevent a blood clot or DVT is to maintain a healthy weight, avoid a sedentary lifestyle where possible, and follow any recommendations from a doctor. The CDC also recommend that a person gets up and walks around regularly, and exercises their leg muscles, even when seated.
A person could try:
raising and lowering their heels while keeping their toes on the floor
raising and lowering their toes,
keeping their heels on the floor
tightening and releasing their leg muscles
It is possible to minimize the risk of developing a blood clot or DVT by avoiding clear risk factors and practicing prevention techniques, such as exercising muscles wherever possible.
If a person thinks they have had a blood clot in their leg, they should contact a doctor immediately.
Source: Medical News Today: 3 May 2019.
By Timothy Huzar Reviewed by Gerhard Whitworth, RN