Blood clot treatment can take many forms, depending on the type and cause of clotting taking place. Anticoagulant medications (blood thinners), such as heparin and warfarin, are often used to inhibit the formation and growth of existing clots. They slow the time it take for blood to clot and can prevent further clotting.
They do come with potentially uncomfortable and sometimes serious side effects, as well as the need for frequent blood testing. A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot typically in one leg that can break loose and travel to the lungs as a pulmonary embolism (PE). This results in death in 1 of every 3 people with PE. According to the US Surgeon General, the incidence of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism ranges between 350,000 – 600,000 per year, with an estimated 100,000 deaths per year. Some risk factors include a hospital or nursing home stay, major surgery, trauma, hip or knee replacement, obesity, older age, immobility, or a family history of clots and clotting disorders. A blood clot is a symptom of a larger condition. There are many potential causes of blood clots, and one should work with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms of Blood Clots
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins of the body, usually in one of the legs. Signs and symptoms of blood clots related to DVT include swelling, usually in one leg, leg pain or tenderness, reddish or bluish skin discoloration, and the leg might be warm to the touch. These symptoms of blood clots may feel similar to a pulled muscle or a Charlie horse, but may differ in that the leg swells, is discolored, and feverish. One should contact a doctor if experiencing these symptoms. Immediate treatment may be required. Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a clot breaks off from a DVT and travels to the lung, which can be fatal. Signs of clots relating to PE include sudden shortness of breath, sharp, stabbing chest pain that may get worse with each breath, rapid heart rate and unexplained cough that can be accompanied with bloody mucus. If one is experiencing any of these symptoms, he or she should seek emergency help immediately for treatment in the emergency room. More general symptoms of blood clots include pain extending to the shoulder, arm, back, teeth or jaw, numbness in the face, arm or leg, aphasia or sudden blurred or double vision.
Long-Term Symptoms of Blood Clots
There are no long-term symptoms of blood clots, because the body cannot tolerate a blood clot for an extended period of time. Blood clots must be treated, dislodged, or a pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs, and the individual either survives or experiences a fatal heart attack or stroke. Any long-term symptoms result from the side effects of medical treatment for blood clots. Anticoagulant medications (blood thinners), such as heparin and warfarin, are often used to inhibit the formation and growth of existing clots. Heparin, usually administered through an IV, can cause bleeding, skin rash, headache, cold symptoms, upset stomach, and loss of bone strength. Loss of bone strength is less common and may occur when patients are on the drug for long periods of time. A rare side effect of heparin is called Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia (HIT), which occurs in a small number of patients, but is very serious. Symptoms include increased clotting or development of new clots, which then leads to DVT, PE, or death. Warfarin is a long-term blood thinner administered in pill form, and can cause bleeding, headache, rash, hair loss, skin breakdown, purple toe syndrome, and elevated liver enzymes. One should inform a consulting physician of all medications being taken, including herbal and over-the-counter drugs, prior to blood clot treatment. The mechanism by which the respiratory muscles are affected by adverse effects may occur.