Blood clot symptoms: Five telltale signs in your leg of a blood clot to watch out for

DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a blood clot in a vein, usually the leg. If not treated quickly, it can be dangerous and you will need serious medical attention. Some common signs of DVT to look out for are:

  • Throbbing or cramping pain in one leg (rarely both legs), usually in the calf or thigh
  • Swelling in one leg (rarely both legs)
  • Warm skin around the painful area
  • Red or darkened skin around the painful area
  • Swollen veins that are hard or sore when you touch them.

These symptoms may also happen in your arm or stomach if that is where the blood clot is.

If you have symptoms of DVT, the NHS recommend that you book an urgent GP appointment or dial 111.

However, DVT can be very serious and can lead to a pulmonary embolism. This is when blood clots in your veins break loose, travel through your bloodstream and get stuck in your lungs.

A pulmonary embolism can be life threatening and needs treatment straight away.

Therefore, if you are breathless and experience chest pain along with the aforementioned symptoms, it is important to dial 999 straight away.

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You are more likely to experience a DVT if you:

  • Are over 60
  • Are overweight
  • Smoke
  • Take the contraceptive pill or HRT
  • Have cancer or heart failure
  • Have varicose veins.

There are also some temporary situations when you’re at more risk of DVT. These include if you:

  • Are staying in or recently left hospital – especially if you are not able to move around much
  • Are confined to bed
  • Are pregnant or if you have had a baby in the previous six weeks
  • Are dehydrated. 

In some instances, DVT can happen for no obvious reason.

DVT diagnosis:

If a doctor thinks you have DVT, you should be referred to the hospital within 24 hours for an ultrasound scan.

The scan shows whether blood is flowing normally through the vein.

You may also have an X-ray of the vein (venogram). For this, you will be injected with a dye to show where the blood clot is.

How to prevent DVT:

Staying fit, healthy and active are ideal ways at preventing DVT. As well as:

Staying a healthy weight
Staying active – taking regular walks can help
Drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration – DVT is more likely if you’re dehydrated.

However, to prevent DVT you should not:

Sit still for long periods of time – get up and move around every hour or so
Cross your legs while you’re sitting, it can restrict blood flow
Smoke – get support to stop smoking
Not drink lots of alcohol

Treatment of DVT

You may have an injection of an anticoagulant (blood thinning) medicine called heparin while you are waiting for an ultrasound scan to tell if you have a DVT.

After DVT is diagnosed, the main treatment is tablets of an anticoagulant medicine, such as warfarin and rivaroxaban. You will probably take the tablets for at least three months.

If anticoagulant medicines are not suitable, you may have a filter put into a large vein – the vena cava – in your stomach. The filter traps and stops a blood clot travelling to your heart and lungs.

A newer treatment involves breaking up and sucking out the clot through a small tube in the vein. You usually need to take anticoagulant medicine for several months after this treatment.

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