HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE A BLOOD CLOT IN MY LEG?

Blood clots can form in many parts of the body, including the leg, arm, heart, abdomen, brain and lungs. In this blog entry, we want to look at clots in the legs, the most common place for them to occur. When a clot forms in the deep veins of the leg, there is the possibility that it can break off and travel to the heart, abdomen, brain or lungs, causing a life-threatening condition. How can you tell if you might have one? Check for:

  • swelling
  • pain
  • tenderness
  • a warm sensation
  • a pale or bluish discoloration

Doctors can usually tell if a person is at risk for forming blood clots, and can manage the problem with chemical blood thinners such as warfarin, heparin, clopidogrel and others. These drugs can have their own dangerous side effects, so you are sort of out of the frying pan and into the fire. Your doctor can determine how high your risk factor is and whether or not to take a drug.

Risk factors for blood clots are:

  • obesity
  • smoking
  • over the age of 60
  • taking oral contraceptives
  • chronic inflammatory disease
  • atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation
  • congestive heart failure
  • cirrhosis
  • cancer
  • fractures in your extremities, especially the lower extremities or pelvis
  • pregnancy
  • a family history of clotting disorders
  • inability to walk
  • sitting for long periods of time
  • frequent travel

If your risk factor is mainly in the deep veins of your legs, you have a better option for clot prevention: pneumatic compression therapy. This drug-free option makes use of a pair of inflatable leg sleeves, connected by tubing to an electrically powered air pump. The pump inflates and deflates the sleeves, pumping the blood up through the deep veins of your legs, thus imitating the natural pumping action provided by walking. Depending on your doctor’s determination, the pneumatic sleeves might only have to be worn for a few hours a day, perhaps in the evening while watching TV, or while seated at a desk at work. However if a patient is confined to bed as in the case of an injury, or after surgery, the sleeves might have to be worn continuously, until the patient is able to get up and walk again.

The good news about pneumatic leg compression: 1) since it is drug-free, there are absolutely no side effects. 2) Many patients report the massaging effect of the intermittent compression of the pneumatic sleeves is pleasant and soothing!

If you have been told you are at risk for clot formation, talk to your doctor about the drug-free alternative for clot prevention: pneumatic compression. Invite him or her to visit this website. Take an active role in your health care and you’ll be much better off.