It’s pretty normal for us to get leg cramps after an intense leg exercise, especially after being physically inactive for a long period of time. But if the cramps get worse and there’s a bulging situation going on, the pain could be a result of a dangerous blood clot, which is more life-threatening.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of a blood clot (thrombus) within a large, deep vein, usually in the lower leg or the thigh. DVT is not your ordinary vein problem like varicose veins. If left untreated, the blood clot can break loose and travel through your bloodstream and lodge in your lungs, blocking the blood flow. A dangerous complication called “Pulmonary Embolism” or the detachment of a large clot that travels to the lungs, could also occur which may lead to death.
Who are at Risk?
Patients appear to increase their chances of developing DVT when exposed to certain risk factors such as pregnancy and hormonal medications like birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, recent major surgeries, as well as extended periods of inactivity often caused by trauma, medical illness, and hospital confinement.
While most people are not familiar with Deep Vein Thrombosis, experts agree that DVT is about as common as stroke. Knowing the risks, symptoms, and proper diagnosis can save you from developing the serious illness.
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What are the Signs of Deep Vein Thrombosis?
1. Your Leg Swells Like a Balloon
Leg swelling is the most common and most visible sign of DVT. According to cardiologist Geoffrey Barnes, MD, leg swelling is caused by blood clot in the vein which prevents blood from returning from the leg back to the heart.
Take the time to look at your legs. Is one leg more swollen than the other? If it is, maybe it’s time to get suspicious about DVT. In most cases, only one leg is affected by DVT.
2. Your Affected Leg Hurts so Bad
We all experience cramps, or that “pulled muscle” sensation, but if the unbearable pain associated with leg swelling won’t go away, it may be a clear sign of DVT. Aside from unsightly swollen leg area, pain is another symptom you can never ignore. The pain usually starts in your calf, which may feel like a throbbing ache and tenderness.
Larry Santora, MD, medical director of The Center for Heart and Vascular Wellness and Prevention, said that there’s a noticeable difference between ordinary injured leg muscles and DVT. He said, injured muscles in the lower leg tend to cause pain on the right side of the calf while DVT often causes pain in the back of the calf.
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3. Your Leg Starts to Feel Warm
Aside from swelling and throbbing pain, you will also feel discomfort as your leg starts to feel warm. The warm sensation in your leg is another result of the accumulation of blood in the affected area.
4. Your Leg’s Color Looks Funny
If your affected leg has a red or bluish purple hue, it may be another sign of DVT. Dr. Barnes explains that discoloration, as well as discomfort and swelling, is caused by the collecting of blood.
5. Symptoms, Both Subtle and Severe, are Getting Worse
Normal cramps go away after a few days. But if you have DVT, you experience pain that seems to be worsening day by day. If pain and swelling don’t get any better after a few days or if the condition gets worse and unbearable, you should immediately seek a specialist for guidance and treatment.
When you seek medical help, the doctor might perform a physical examination on the affected leg. The doctor will also look for knots that can often be felt from the blood clot. After the physical examination, he or she may recommend performing an ultrasound on both legs to determine if the clots are in the deep veins, which can be diagnosed as Deep Vein Thrombosis, or in the superficial veins, which is not that serious.