Killer Legs & Blood Clots
Sorry, this isn’t about “killer” as in “well built”, but literally – killer.
People who are off their feet for awhile can develop killer legs from blood clots. DVT is not usually life threatening, but it can be if the blood clots break loose and go into the lungs.
Anyone who is laid up for awhile due to illness, surgery or injury may be at risk to develop a blood clot deep inside their legs. This condition is called Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT. Other situations that can cause DVP are surgery, serious injury, inflammation and an immune response.
Traveling can be a cause; however, your risk of developing DVT while traveling is small. The risk increases if the travel time is longer than 4 hours or you have other DVT risk factors.
Slow or sluggish blood flow can also be a cause of killer legs. Lack of motion can be the cause of slow blood flow, which can cause killer legs.
There are also some inherited conditions that can increase a person’s tendency to clot. This also is true of hormone therapy or birth control treatment and/or usage.
Pregnancy and the first 6 weeks after giving birth can leave a woman at risk, as well.
What Can Happen?
A blood clot in a deep vein can break off and travel through the bloodstream. The loose clot is called an embolus. When the clot travels to the lungs and blocks blood flow, the condition is called pulmonary embolism (PE). Most of these clots usually occur in the lower leg or thigh. This is where the phrase killer legs comes from. They also can occur in other parts of the body.
If the blood clot breaks loose and travels to the lung, it can be fatal. Complications from DVT kill up to 200,000 people a year.
The good news is, in most cases DVT can be prevented. If you or someone you love is laid up for a while, talk to your doctor about how to prevent DVT.
What Are The Symptoms?
This is where this can be DVT can get serious – only about half of the people who develop it have any warning symptoms. Or they may simply not notice them or think they could be anything serious. Warning signs you can watch for include:
- A swollen leg or swelling along a vein in your leg.
- Painful tenderness in your leg, which occurs most when you stand or walk.
- A feeling of warmth in the are of the leg that has become swollen.
- Red or discolored skin on the leg.
If you have any of these symptoms you should contact your health care provider immediately. These symptoms are not unique to DVT and can be associated with other conditions.
Some people will first find out they have DVT until they have symptoms of PE. Those symptoms include:
- Unexplained shortness of breath.
- Pain when taking deep breaths.
- Coughing up blood.
- Rapid breathing.
- A fast heart rate.
Treatment can be done with medicines and devices as well as therapies. The most common form of treatment is 3 to 6 months of a blood thinner. The goals of treatment are to stop the blood clot from getting bigger, prevent the clot from breaking off and moving to your lungs and reducing your chance of having another blood clot. There are several medications used to treat DVT. Your doctor will help determine what is best for you.
You can take steps to prevent DVT.
Regular exercise will decrease the risk of VTE. Regular stretching and leg movement are important for individuals who sit a lot or when traveling on long trips, particularly air travel.
Maintain a normal body weight and eat a healthy diet.
- PE is a very serious condition. It can damage the lungs and other organs in the body and cause death.
- Blood clots in the thigh are more likely to break off and cause PE than blood clots in the lower leg or other parts of the body.
- Blood clots also can form in veins closer to the skin’s surface. However, these clots won’t break off and cause PE.