British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots
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Blood clots can form anywhere in the body, but they often form inside the arteries which block blood flow to the legs. Blood is prevented from leaving the limb easily when this occurs, causing it to swell. Charley horse has often been reported in patients with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which describes a blood clot in a vein, usually the leg.
Charley horse is the term given to a muscle spasm or cramp that occurs in any muscle in the body, predominantly in the leg.
When the muscle is in spasm, it contracts without your control and does not relax, sometimes due to dehydration or low levels of potassium or calcium.
The National Blood Clot Alliance explains that symptoms may include “leg pain or tenderness often described as a cramp or charley horse”.
The health body says: “These symptoms of a blood clot may feel similar to a pulled muscle or a ‘charley horse’, but may differ in that the leg (or arm) may be swollen, slightly discoloured and warm.
“Contact your doctor as soon as you can if you have any of these symptoms, because you may need treatment right away.
If you need help finding a doctor, please click here.”When the muscles contract without warning, cramps may last from a few seconds to a few days.
The pain can be intense, and may subsequently result in muscle soreness, which is very common after exercise.
Although cramps can strike at any given moment, the NHS says they’re more likely to occur at night when the body is at rest.
In DVT the blood clot remains stationary, but there is a risk of it breaking off and entering the bloodstream and travelling to the lung.
This may cause a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism (PE), which is characterised by symptoms like:
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Chest pain-sharp, stabbing; may get worse with a deep breath
- Rapid heart rate
- Unexplained cough, sometimes with bloody mucus.
Before this occurs, however, it is possible that someone with DVT experiences no symptoms at all.
The condition may affect people with a health condition that influences how their blood clots, or someone who doesn’t move their legs for a long time.
According to UMPC, the pain that characterises blood clots tends to have specific characteristics.
“As the clot worsens, you may feel a sensation ranging from a dull ache to intense pain. The pain may throb in your leg, belly or even arm,” explains the health body.
It continues: “Unlike the pain from a charley horse that usually goes away after stretching or with rest, the pain from a blood clot does not go away and usually gets worse with time.”
Ignoring the above signs can pave the way for varicose veins, pain, and ulcers, as a result of prolonged swelling.
It is therefore critical to seek care as soon as the signs emerge, as several interventional procedures could potentially save your life.
Doctors may prescribe blood thinners, which are anticoagulants that help prevent blood clots from getting bigger.
Clot busters, known as thrombolytics, are drugs used for more serious types of DVT or PE, and are prescribed when other medications aren’t working.
Preventive measures can include wearing compression stockings, which reduce the risk of DVT by as much as 63 percent after a surgical procedure.
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