When some components of the blood thicken they can turn into a kind of gel called a clot.
If this occurs, there is an increased risk of impaired blood flow, increasing the risk of various conditions, such as thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. Learn why clots occur and what you can do to prevent them.
Blood clots form when certain components of the blood thicken and form a kind of gel. In some cases, this process can be beneficial, for example, when it occurs in response to an injury or cut, blocking the injured blood vessel and containing bleeding.
However, some clots form inside the veins for no good reason and do not dissolve naturally. This may require medical attention, especially if they are located in the legs, lungs, or brain.
Normally, blood clots that form in a deep vein in the legs or thighs are known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. This condition can cause serious problems if the clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs, known as a pulmonary embolism. It can also increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Why do blood clots form in the legs?
Among the main causes of blood clots in the legs are:
- Having suffered a fracture (hip, pelvis or leg).
- Having had COVID-19.
- Having had or have cancer.
- Take long trips by car, plane, bus or train without changing position.
- Spending a lot of time sitting or lying down.
- Spending a long time without moving.
- Being obese or overweight.
- Have surgery recently.
- Taking medications that promote blood clotting or hormones, especially for birth control. Important: do not stop taking any medication you suspect without first consulting a health professional.
- Be 65 years of age or older.
- Having a family history of blood clots.
- Have diabetes
- Have large bruises.
- Have heart problems
- Having varicose or diseased veins.
You can tell if a clot has formed in your leg by experiencing the following symptoms:
- Pain or numbness in the leg
- Redness of the skin on the leg.
- Sudden swelling in the leg
- Feel a hot spot on your leg.
In turn, the appearance of any of these signs may indicate the probable presence of a clot that dislodged and reached the lungs:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Chest pain.
- Slight fever.
- Fast heartbeat
- Cough, with or without blood.
How to avoid the appearance of clots?
If you experience any of the symptoms previously developed or suspect that a clot may have formed in your leg, you should consult a healthcare professional. This will examine you and make a diagnosis, to determine the best treatment.
Generally, they resort to the use of blood thinners or anticoagulants, which, as their name implies, prevent the blood from clotting.
However, experts agree that the best thing to do against this disorder is to prevent it. To do this, you can take different simple measures:
- Change positions frequently, especially during long trips.
- Control cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and blood pressure.
- Raise the foot of the bed 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm), placing blocks or books on the bottom.
- Avoid standing or sitting for more than an hour at a time.
- Do the exercises recommended by the doctor to promote circulation.
- Hydrate properly, drinking between 2 and 2 ½ of water a day.
- Raise the legs, eventually, 15 cm (6 inches) above the heart.
- Stay active by doing physical activity regularly or daily. Any movement is helpful, even walking.
- No Smoking.
- Do not use pillows under the knees.
- Prevent blows to the legs and avoid crossing them.
- Reduce the consumption of salt, both added and that found in different foods or processed drinks.
- Wear loose clothing, socks, or stockings.
- Wear special stockings (called compression stockings), if your healthcare professional recommends it.
- Take all the medications the doctor prescribes.
Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.