Recently on the blog, we spent some time explaining the science of blood clots: what they are, why they form and what they can do to your health. Today, we’re going to provide some more helpful information: this is how you can tell if you’re developing a blood clot!
How Can I tell if I have a Blood Clot?
The scary answer to this question is: you can’t always tell when you’re developing a blood clot. Sometimes, blood clots form without any obvious symptoms. But sometimes blood clots form and cause a range of other impacts on your body. Many of those symptoms will depend on the location of your blood clot.
As it turns out, women have a higher clotting risk. And one early warning sign may be tingling in your hands. That tingling could even cause temporary numbness. So if either symptom develops, you should see your vein specialist immediately.
If you have DVT (deep vein thrombosis, a clot in the deep veins of your legs) you may develop symptoms including redness or other changes of color at the site of your clot, warm skin, swelling, cramps and pain, without any obvious injury. Sometimes, the redness could look streaky, and move down your leg.
If the clot forms in your lower leg, cramping there could be a warning sign of a forming clot. With a DVT, that swelling (called edema) could look a little different than other forms of fluid buildup. Because, if a clot is to blame, you’ll notice pits or depressions in the swollen area that stick around for a few seconds after you press on the skin.
What is a Clot Break?
A clot break is a serious medical complication. This can happen when a DVT breaks loose from your legs and travels to your lungs (Pulmonary embolism). A clot break could also travel from your heart to your brain, with vascular flow. And this is obviously a potentially fatal complication. With a clot break, you may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath (for no apparent reason), an unexplained cough, chest pain, an increased heart rate and fatigue. Your breath may also come quickly, and you may notice pain in your rib cage, especially when you breathe deeply.
If the clot travels to your brain, the symptoms include loss of strength in your arms and legs, slurred speech and, sadly, sudden death.
If you’re at increased risk (you’ve just taken a long plane trip, you’re pregnant, or have compromised cardiovascular health) see your doctor for any of these symptoms. A blood clot can quickly become a medical emergency.
Do I Need Treatment?
In theory, your blood clot will self-resolve. That means, your body will naturally break it down and absorb the clot—eventually. But that process could take weeks or even months. And, depending on the location of your clot, waiting that long could pose a major threat to your health.
Why? Here’s the deal: if you have a clot in your artery, your cells won’t get the oxygen-rich blood they need to work. So they’ll stop functioning. If the clot cuts off oxygen to your brain cells, you’ll develop stroke symptoms. If the clot’s in your coronary artery (impacting your heart), you’ll start developing heart attack symptoms.
So, clearly, arterial clots are medical emergencies. But clots in your veins, like DVTS, are also serious. And that’s because they cause their own set of symptoms, but also because of their potential to break free and travel to your lungs.
In other words, while you could wait for your body to heal that clot, doing so could be a fatal mistake. Instead, let’s explore the best way to medically treat your blood clot.
How Will You Treat My Clot?
Even if it means a trip to the emergency room, see a doctor at the first sign of a clot. If you do have a clot, you’ll need one of two treatments: medication or interventions involving medical devices.
Oral or intravenous (IV) blood thinners can help manage a blood clot. Alternatively, your doctor may insert a wire or catheter to try and open up your blood vessels. Finally, in certain situations, your healthcare provider may surgically remove the blood clot (thromectomy.)
The good news is: blood clot treatments are fairly effective, especially if they are administered quickly. But in order to benefit from these treatments, you must be seen before the clot grows or causes additional damage like a heart attack or stroke. For that reason, we can’t emphasize this enough: seek immediate medical attention from your Houston vein specialists at the first sign of a suspected blood clot!