The term ‘blood clot’ can provoke significant anxiety — you need only look at the general public’s reaction to the extremely rare side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine to understand this. Many people wonder what a blood clot feels like and whether or not they will be able to tell if one is developing in their body.

The answer to this question is — you might. There are certainly signs and symptoms that accompany a blood clot, also known as deep vein thrombosis. However, as is the case with all medical conditions, you are far better off going to consult a medical professional rather than an online blog or community. Google can only tell you so much and interpreting the information without appropriate specialist guidance and advice can be fraught with danger!

Dr Adrian Ling is an experienced vascular surgeon located in Melbourne’s inner north. He has successfully provided DVT treatment to countless individuals and provides his patients with comprehensive treatment options.

If, after reading about these signs and symptoms, you believe you might be suffering from DVT, it’s wise to first consult your doctor who will provide you with a referral to see a vascular specialist.

What is DVT?

DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis, a type of clot that is found deep within your body. DVT clots usually occur in the legs. However, they can then dislodge (or ‘embolise’) to the respiratory system, where they can cause significant (potentially fatal) damage.

DVT occurs in a wide variety of individuals for a number of different reasons. Certain medical conditions can increase the likelihood that a person’s blood will clot. If you have been sedentary for a very long period of time — recovering from surgery or going on a long-haul flight, for example — this can also increase the risk of DVT occurring.

Additional risk factors include pregnancy, being on hormonal birth control, smoking, being overweight, and genetics. Being able to identify if you are in one of the at-risk categories is an important step in protecting yourself against DVT.

What does DVT feel like?

If you do fall into one of the above-mentioned categories, it’s a good idea to learn about the symptoms of DVT. Understanding what deep vein thrombosis feels like means you can seek immediate medical attention should you believe there is an issue with your blood.

Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include:

● Swelling in the affected leg. It is rare that both legs will swell.

● Pain, similar to cramping, in the affected leg.

● Discoloured skin on the affected leg.

● A feeling of warmth in the affected leg.

More serious symptoms that suggest you should seek immediate medical attention include:

● Shortness of breath.

● Chest pain.

● Rapid pulse and breathing.

● Coughing up blood.

These symptoms suggest that the clot may have broken free and travelled to the lungs, where it could cause a pulmonary embolism.

How can DVT be treated?

The good news is that there are DVT treatment methods readily available.

One such method involves a medication commonly referred to as ‘blood thinners’. The name is slightly misleading — blood thinners do not thin your blood, per se, but rather prevent a clot from either growing or breaking off and travelling elsewhere in your body. Blood thinners can also prevent new clots from forming.

Another treatment strategy is ‘dissolving’ the clot via use of a thrombolytic (‘clot-busting’) medication. During this treatment, a vascular surgeon uses a special catheter (like a tiny hose) to spray the clot-busting medication directly into the clot. The medications helps to loosen the clot, which is then suctioned out via the catheter like a vaccuum. Although this procedure sounds invasive, it is relatively non-intrusive because it is done through endovascular surgery (’key-hole’ vascular surgery), which only requires a simple Bandaid upon completion.

Having treatment for DVT will prevent the clot from travelling elsewhere in your body, preventing potential fatal complications. Furthermore, it will also prevent a condition known as ‘post-thrombotic syndrome’. Characterised by chronic pain, chronic swelling, and leg ulcers, post-thrombotic syndrome can seriously interfere with your quality of life.

How do I seek help for DVT?

If you believe you may have developed a blood clot in your leg, your first call should be to your general practitioner or Emergency Department. After appropriate investigations, they will be able to provide you with a reference to a vascular specialist, such as Dr Ling.

Of course, if you are suffering severe symptoms — such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing up blood — it’s best to seek immediate emergency medical attention by calling 000.

Should you start to experience any of the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis, act quickly to seek DVT treatment. Doing so will ensure you have the best chance possible of fully recovering and enjoying a great quality of life.