Blood clots don't always pose a great threat to your health. In fact, tiny blood clots routinely form in your vessels, but your body breaks them down before they cause major trouble. But in some cases, blood clots may put your life at risk, as is the case with deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Deep vein thrombosis is a condition in which a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins in your body. The most common site for a blood clot to form is the leg (the calf, to be specific). When the blood clot is still there, it will cause certain distinct symptoms. But the situation can quickly become life-threatening if the blood clot breaks off, and the flow carries it to the lungs. This condition is known as pulmonary embolism, and it's often fatal. So, to lower the risk of a blood clot in the calf reaching your lungs, it's important to know early symptoms that a blood clot in the calf can produce.
Symptoms of a blood clot in the calf
It's possible to have a blood clot in the calf or other body parts and have no symptoms. But usually they are present and include the following:
- calf pain, which is usually felt at the site of a clot and may be similar to a cramp or ache caused by a pulled muscle;
- a visible calf swelling;
- warmth to the touch;
- discoloration - an area of skin on the calf may turn red or bluish if there's a blood clot underneath.
These symptoms usually affect one leg.
It's vitally important to get proper treatment if you have the symptoms listed above. If your symptoms turn out to be caused by DVT, clot-dissolving therapy can save your life.
If a blood clot in the calf breaks off, travels up to the lungs, and lodges there, you'll get the following symptoms:
- sudden and severe shortness of breath;
- fast heart rate;
- sharp chest pain, which may be worse when you breathe in;
- coughing, sometimes with blood;
- a drop in blood pressure;
These symptoms indicate pulmonary embolism, which is an emergency. If such symptoms appear, call 911 (or your local emergency number) right away.
Who is at a higher risk of developing a blood clot in the calf?
Some people are more likely than others to develop a blood clot in the calf and elsewhere. Here are several factors that increase your risk:
- lack of movement, e.g. being on bedrest or staying seated for several hours or more when traveling;
- being pregnant;
- using certain oral contraceptives;
- being on hormone replacement therapy to treat menopause symptoms;
- serious trauma to the leg;
- certain clotting disorders.
How can I lower my risk of developing a blood clot in the calf and elsewhere?
Blood clots aren't always preventable, but there are some measures that can lower your risk of developing one.
They include the following:
- drink enough water to prevent dehydration;
- move your legs and massage them when you remain seated for hours when traveling;
- if you are on bedrest, keep your legs elevated;
- don't smoke;
- exercise to improve circulation in your calves and throughout the body;
- if you've been prescribed blood thinners, take them as required;
- use compression stockings if recommended.
This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.