4 Ways to Treat a Blood Clot

May 7th 2016

Staying active and being aware of how to keep your circulation healthy helps to prevent blood clots forming, but once one appears, it's important to seek urgent medical help. Anticoagulants are the main way to treat blood clots, but there's plenty you can do to enhance their effects and set up a protective regime for the future.

Injections

One of the first lines of treatment for a blood clot is a week's course of heparin injections. Heparin is an anticoagulant, or blood thinner, that helps to break down the bonds within the clot. The medicine is given as subdermal injections, that is, under the skin rather than into a vein. Because there is no need to inject into a blood vessel, the shots can be administered by the patient or a friend or relative rather than requiring medical assistance.

Alternatively, if the clot appears to be in a particularly dangerous place, your doctor may inject the clot directly with a thrombolytic, a medicine specifically designed to dissolve the clot. This is rare though, as it demands a great deal of precision, and portions breaking off the clot could pose a risk if floating free in the body.

Tablets

In conjunction with any injections, a doctor may also prescribe you a course of warfarin tablets. This mild anticoagulant is part of a longer anti-clot plan, and the tablets may be prescribed for up to six months. This blood thinner is famous as a rat poison, but the doses in the prescription are very small and have been thoroughly tested in humans for safety. To prevent potential accidents, however, it's very important to ensure that no children or animals have access to your medicine.

Exercise

While extreme or sudden movement should be avoided during treatment in case the blood clot breaks off moves to a dangerous part of the body, gentle exercise such as walking or swimming helps to keep circulation strong and encourage the blood thinners to do their work. Make sure to be careful and avoid injury, though, as blood loss while on anticoagulants can be serious. It's very important to stay mobile, as inactivity is a major cause of most clots. Even when traveling or working, make sure you can stand and walk regularly, stretching the legs and flexing the feet.

Compression Garments

Because most clots form in the legs after periods of inactivity, using compression stockings during the treatment period can help to encourage circulatory health to break down the old clot and prevent new clots forming. You may also want to consider using them after treatment when traveling or if you can't move about regularly, to prevent further clots from forming.

Conclusion

While the best way to manage blood clots is to use all possible means of prevention, they sometimes form anyway. At that point, it's useful to know what steps you and your physician can take to break up the clot safely and restore your circulation to full effectiveness.

Sources

AHRQ.gov "Your guide to preventing and treating blood clots" http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/prevention/disease/bloodclots.html
StopTheClot.org "Blood clot FAQs – How are blood clots treated?" http://www.stoptheclot.org/faq_treatment.htm
Hematology.org "Blood clots" http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Clots/

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