How Are Blood Clots Treated?

Many people feel anxious when they’re diagnosed with a blood clot. It’s common to worry about how the clot may damage your health, and also to be concerned that you’ll experience more clots in the future. It’s important to be reassured that blood clots are treatable. Medical science has developed ways to minimize the impact of a clot on your health, and to help reduce the risk of future clots.

It’s helpful to know about your treatment options, so you feel more confident and empowered as you navigate your healthcare journey. The treatment of a blood clot isn’t limited to taking medications, although this is often an important part of the picture. Lifestyle modifications can also make a significant difference in reducing your risk of experiencing another clot. In addition to the physical aspects, considering the mental and emotional impact of a clot is important.

Some of the options that may be used for clots include:

  • Anticoagulation: This involves using medicine to make your blood less likely to clot. There are many different types of anticoagulation, with different types being used in different situations. Some are given by injection, while others are taken orally. The specific type of anticoagulation that’s recommended, and how long it’s used for, will depend on balancing the risk of a future clot against the risk of the medication causing excessive bleeding.
  • Filters: One of the biggest risks of a blood clot in the leg is that a piece of the clot could break off and travel to the lungs. In some cases, a filter is surgically placed in a vein, where it catches any large pieces of a clot before they can make their way to the lungs and cause damage.
  • Thrombolysis: If a blood clot is particularly large or dangerous, or if it’s causing significant symptoms, then this procedure may be used to help dissolve it more quickly. A long narrow tube called a catheter is inserted through a vein at the surface of the leg, and then threaded through the veins using ultrasound or X-rays, until it reaches the clot. Clot-dissolving medications can then be injected directly onto the clot, or mechanical devices can be used to remove the clot. This procedure is not always necessary, but is used in some cases.
  • Compression socks: If you’ve experienced a clot in your leg or foot, then compression socks may help to prevent this from happening again. Compression socks work by applying pressure to your legs and feet, which helps to prevent blood from pooling in the veins. Because stagnant blood is more likely to clot, it’s important to prevent it from pooling in order to prevent clots. Keep in mind that some socks sold commerically as “compression socks” really don’t provide enough compression to be helpful; your medical team will help you to determine how much compression you need to effectively reduce your clot risk.
  • Clinical trials: A clinical trial is a research study of a new form of treatment, such as a medication. There are a variety of clinical trials taking place to study new types of treatments to prevent blood clots. While taking part in a clinical trial can potentially allow you access to a cutting edge treatment that’s otherwise unavailable, there are important tradeoffs to consider. If you’re interested in this option, please discuss the pros and cons with your treatment team. 
  • Mental health support: Besides the physical effects, it’s also important to consider the potential impact of a clot on your mental health. Support groups can be very helpful for many people in processing their emotions and helping them navigate their health journeys after a clot. Some people also benefit from talking to a therapist or counselor, who can offer you techniques for managing emotions like worry and anxiety. Stress can impact your risk of a clot, so it’s important to address these issues not only to improve your quality of life, but also to help reduce your risk of developing another clot.

Your personalized treatment plan will be created as a collaboration between you and your medical team. You have a right to fully understand your treatment plan and to know what the alternative options are, as well as why the team is recommending a particular plan. Ask your team as many questions as you need to in order to feel satisfied that you’re fully informed.

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