Experiencing swelling and pain in your arm or leg? You may have a blood clot.
The United States is recommending a pause on administering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine after reports of six women experiencing blood clots shortly after their inoculation. U.S. federal distribution channels, including mass vaccination sites, will pause the use of the shot, and states and other providers are expected to follow.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigate these reports, it’s important to know the risks, signs and symptoms of a blood clot.
According to the CDC, a blood clot in the veins is an under-diagnosed and serious, yet preventable, medical condition that can cause disability and death. The two most common blood clot conditions are deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE), which are often grouped together and known as venous thromboembolism.
Deep vein thrombosis is a medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein. These clots usually develop in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, but they can also occur in the arm. It can happen to anybody and can cause serious illness, disability, and in some cases, death.
The most serious complication of DVT happens when a part of the clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing a blockage called pulmonary embolism. If the clot is small, and with treatment, people can recover. However, there could be some damage to the lungs. If the clot is large, it can stop blood from reaching the lungs and is fatal.
What are the signs and symptoms of a blood clot?
About half of people with DVT have no symptoms at all. But here are the most common symptoms that occur in the affected part of the body:
- Redness of the skin
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
According to the CDC, you can have a pulmonary embolism without any symptoms of a DVT. Signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Faster than normal or irregular heart beat
- Chest pain or discomfort, which usually worsens with a deep breath or coughing
- Coughing up blood
- Very low blood pressure, lightheadedness, or fainting
If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately.
What are the risk factors?
According to the CDC, there are some risk factors that can make a person vulnerable to blood clots. Everyone is at risk, but some factors can increase this risk — such as hospitalization and surgery, or being immobile.
Other risk factors include: older age; being overweight or obese; a family history of blood clots; recent or recurrent cancer; injury and trauma; during and just after pregnancy; estrogen-based medicine, such as hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy.
How do I prevent and treat blood clots?
Medication is used to prevent and treat blood clots, the CDC stated. Compression stockings are sometimes recommended to prevent clots and relieve pain and swelling. These might need to be worn for two or more years after having DVT. In severe cases, the clot might need to be removed surgically.
Immediate medical attention is necessary to treat a pulmonary embolism. In cases of severe, life-threatening PE, there are medicines called thrombolytics that can dissolve the clot, according to the CDC. Other medicines, called anticoagulants, may be prescribed to prevent more clots from forming.
The CDC added that some people may need to be on medication long-term to prevent future blood clots.
There are things you can do to prevent death or complications of a blood clot, the CDC said. You should know your risks and recognize symptoms, and if you have symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible. Blood clots can be safely treated by your doctor.
Before any surgery, talk with your doctor about blood clots, and tell your doctor if you have any risk factors.
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