The Risk of Blood Clots

Do Blood Clots in My Leg Pose a Risk?

We have all heard about the dangers of blood clots, ranging from heart attack and stroke to less critical issues like swelling in the legs and ankles. How do blood clots differ in severity?

Sometimes a clot occurs in the superficial venous system. This is referred to as superficial thrombophlebitis. It is rarely serious and the clot usually dissolves on its own, though it's always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider if you are having any symptoms such as warmth and tenderness – or redness and swelling – of a particular area, generally in your legs and feet.

Superficial thrombophlebitis symptoms tend to be localized. This means that they occur in the direct vicinity of the actual clot. You may even notice a raised, cord-like vein under the skin.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition where a blood clot forms in the deep veins. While there are no known specific causes for DVT, factors that may put you at a greater risk are:

  • Being inactive for long periods of time, including prolonged bed rest
  • Major surgery (especially knee replacements)
  • Hereditary clotting disorders or a family history of blood clots
  • Older age
  • Certain medications (your doctor or pharmacist can alert you to any risks when prescribing medications for you)

If you have a deep vein thrombus (clot), it's considered a medical emergency and you should head straight to the emergency room. Symptoms of DVT are:

  • Swelling of the whole leg
  • Changes in skin color, including redness, bluish, or pale appearance
  • Pain in your leg that may start out as a cramping feeling
  • Warmth of the skin

If you experience any of these, get to the emergency room as quickly as possible.