Woman thought she had pulled a muscle prior to blood clot diagnosis

British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots

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Blood clotting is a process required to prevent excessive bleeding when we get a cut. However, clots that do not dissolve by themselves are cause for concern. This is because they can travel to vital organs in the body, disrupting blood flow.

If this happens it can result in life-threatening emergencies such as a stroke or pulmonary embolism.

A common condition associated with blood clots is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is when a clot forms in a deep vein often in the leg.

This was the case for Caitlin Augustine who shared her story with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to raise awareness of blood clots.

She explained: “I was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), also known as blood clots, when I was 18 years old, during my freshman year of college.

“After a routine tonsillectomy [surgery to remove the tonsils], I was home on bed rest for about a week.

“About two weeks prior to my official diagnosis, I started experiencing pain that felt like a pulled muscle.”

However, doctors misdiagnosed this pain.

“When the pain started radiating down my leg, doctors dismissed it as sciatica,” Caitlin said.

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“Eventually the pain was so intense that I was unable to get out of bed. It felt like the lower left side of my body was on fire.

“My parents told me we really needed to get to the doctor.”

Initially, Caitlin was unaware of what DVT was.

She said: “We eventually learned that I had DVT, and at the time we had no idea what that meant. This was like a foreign language to us.

“The doctors had me on special medicine to treat DVT called blood thinners, but they didn’t know if I would make it through the night. It was a tough time for my family and me.

“It was a relief to finally educate myself and find out all the information about DVT. I think that’s when the healing process truly started.”

She added: “Once I learned that blood clots were something I would have to live with the rest of my life, I also learned they were manageable.

“As long as I’m alive that’s all that matters.”

Several factors can raise your risk of DVT, including if you are overweight, smoke, have heart failure or are on a contraceptive pill, among others.

However, some temporary situations – like Caitlin’s bed rest – can also increase your risk. These include if you:

  • Are staying in or recently left the hospital
  • Are confined to bed
  • Go on a long journey (more than three hours) by plane, car or train
  • Are pregnant or if you’ve had a baby in the previous six weeks
  • Are dehydrated.

Common symptoms of DVT in the leg include:

  • Throbbing or cramping pain in one leg (rarely both legs), usually in the calf or thigh
  • Swelling in one leg (rarely both legs)
  • Warm skin around the painful area
  • Red or darkened skin around the painful area
  • Swollen veins that are hard or sore when you touch them.

If you have symptoms of DVT, such as pain and swelling, and experience breathlessness and/or chest pain you should go to A&E immediately.

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