British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots

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Blood clots are very serious and need to be treated as soon as possible. In some cases, blood clots can turn into medical emergencies if they go without medical attention or strike in certain parts of the body.

Blood clots in the legs can be extremely dangerous if they break free and travel to other parts of the body.

This is especially true if the clot managed to make its way to areas such as the brain or heart.

In some cases, a blood clot can enter the lung, triggering a potentially fatal event called a pulmonary embolism (PE).

What causes a blood clot?

Blood clots are caused when platelets clump together within the blood.

This process can be triggered by an injury, however, sometimes blood clots occur in places where there is no sign of injury.

Often, however, the risk of blood clots can be heightened by a number of factors.

Some medications can increase the risk of developing a blood clot.

People who smoke are at a heightened risk of blood clots.

Sitting down for leg periods of time, or spending prolonged time on bed rest can also increase the chances of a blood clot.

Age, any recent major surgery, weight, pregnancy, family history and underlying medical conditions can also contribute to the formation of blood clots.

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What are the symptoms of a blood clot in the leg?

Blood clots show different symptoms depending on where in the body they are.

The legs and arms are two of the most common areas for a clot to develop.

According to the NHS, some of the most commonly reported signs of a blood clot include throbbing or cramping pain, swelling, redness and warmth in a leg or arm.

People may also notice they become suddenly breathless, experience a sharp chest pain when they breathe in, or cough up blood.

This is usually an extremely serious incident and must be treated quickly.

Swelling is one of the most common symptoms of a blood clot in the leg.

Patients may also notice that their entire leg starts to swell up, and it may feel warm or hot to the touch.

Itchiness is another symptom of a blood clot in the leg, with skin often feeling irritated.

The skins around this area may also develop a red or blue tinge.

As the blood clot develops, the leg might become painful or sore. Often, this is described as a “dull ache”.

Blood clots in the lower leg tend to feel more like cramps.

In severe cases, some people may also struggle to breathe. This is usually a sign the clot has transported towards the lungs.

You should dial 999 and ask for an ambulance immediately if you think a blood clot could be close to your lungs.

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