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How are blood clots treated?

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Quick Answer

Doctors treat blood clots with medication: anticoagulants, heparin, warfarin, Xarelto and Pradaxa rank among the most common treatments for blood clots. Blood clots arise in virtually all areas of the body, including the arms, legs, heart and brain. Treatment varies depending on severity of clots, and usually includes a combination of fast-acting blood thinners and long-term medications to regulate and stabilize blood clotting.

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Blood clots occur most often in people recovering from a surgery or injury, or those who can't move around well. They typically form to prevent excessive bleeding, says the American Society of Hematology. They can also occur when blood cannot properly circulate, says MedicineNet. Clots can form if a person over age 65, obese, takes hormones, has heart trouble or bad veins, or is being treated for cancer, according to AHRQ.

Symptoms of blood clots vary depending on their location, explains the American Society of Hematology. A person may experience chest pain, discomfort in the upper body, shortness of breath, sweating or nausea if the clot is near the heart. Clots near the brain may cause weakness of the face, arms or legs, difficulty speaking and vision problems. Clots in the arms or legs are associated with swelling, tenderness and warmth of the limbs.

Blood clots can be prevented by staying active and not remaining still for more than one hour at a time, claims AHRQ. Diets with less salt can also reduce the risk of blood clots.

The most common side effect of blood thinners is bleeding. If excessive bleeding occurs, a patient should be taken to the nearest emergency room, reports AHRQ.

Blood clots, also called deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, form in the veins. Left untreated, they can grow, causing unpleasant symptoms such as swelling and tingling, and even break off, traveling through the blood stream and into vital organs, such as the lungs. Upon the discovery of blood clots, most people receive a fast-acting medication, typically heparin, warfarin and low weight molecular heparin. These medicines prevent the risk of future blood clots and keep current clots from growing, according to the National Blood Clot Alliance. Hospitalized patients typically receive heparin through an IV tube.

Initially under the guidance of treating physicians, patients administer injections of low-weight molecular heparin medication. They continue injections of these shots at home, and do not need routine blood monitoring. Doctors add doses of warfarin for long-term care. Patients must maintain certain diets while on warfarin and schedule routine blood tests. Newer anticoagulants, such as Xarelto and Pradaxa, do not require monitoring. While these medicines treat all blood clots, doctors prescribe others, such as Eliquis, for clots caused by strokes and other conditions.

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