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Dr Hilary says Johnson & Johnson jab blood clots are 'rare'

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Achy legs could be down to a hard workout, but they can also be an indicator of a more serious underlying health issue, such as venous disease or blood clots. Express.co.uk chatted to Professor Mark Whiteley, leading consultant venous surgeon and Founder of The Whiteley Clinic (www.thewhiteleyclinic.co.uk) to find out the key warning signs of blood clots.

Venous disease is a common condition that occurs when the veins and valves in the leg veins are not working effectively – this can cause varicose veins or hidden varicose veins.

Blood clots can occur in veins that are not working properly, due to changes in blood flow and stretching of the vein walls.

Professor Whiteley said: “Such a clot of venous blood can block the veins in the leg (superficial venous thrombosis – SVT, or deep vein thrombosis – DVT) or can fly off causing a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism (clot to the lungs).”

Warning signs of blood clots

Symptoms of blood clots can vary depending on their location in the body, whether they completely block the vessel or only partially block it, and whether they break off and become an embolism.

Arterial blood clots

Professor Whiteley said: “In arteries, blood clots are much more widely known about and cause strokes, heart attacks and dead legs.

“Fortunately, glucophage for weightloss arterial blood clots are quite uncommon. However, in your veins, the signs and symptoms can be much more subtle, and venous disease is much more common.

Deep vein thrombosis

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) classically presents with a swollen, tender leg.

Professor Whiteley said: “If the clot is lower down the leg, it might only be the calf that is affected, and this is often mistaken for cramp.

“If the clot is in the thigh veins or the pelvis, then the whole leg may be swollen and tender.

“If there is any suggestion of deep vein thrombosis, it is sensible to get a scan to be certain.”

Pulmonary embolism

Pulmonary embolism usually presents as a sudden dry cough and feeling short of breath, Professor Whiteley said.

He explained: “If it is very severe, patients can cough up a little blood and be very unwell, with a very low blood pressure.

“However, it is much more common that patients just feel short of breath and have a persistent cough.

“Often, there can also be some sharp chest pain in certain areas when breathing in.”

Any suggestion of a pulmonary embolism should be investigated urgently.

Superficial venous thrombosis

Superficial venous thrombosis or phlebitis presents as an inflamed hard lump in the leg.

Professor Whiteley said: “If the vein is near the surface and big enough, it can feel like a long thin sausage, and the skin can be very red over the top of it.

“If it is in the calf or the thigh, and within 5-7cm of a junction with the deep vein, there is a chance that it might go into the deep veins and a one percent chance of a pulmonary embolism.

“Since 2012, the international guidelines state that anyone with SVT should be referred for a venous duplex ultrasound scan and anticoagulation if needed.”

Can you reduce your risk of blood clots?

There are many ways people can help to improve their circulation and reduce the risk of venous disease and blood clots.

When working from home or in the office, it is essential to not only take regular breaks and get moving, but also to make sure that you are sitting in the correct position to maximise blood circulation.

Professor Whiteley said: “It may sound simple but try placing pillows or a footstool underneath your legs to keep them elevated whilst working from home as this will help to improve your venous circulation.

“By raising your legs whilst you are sitting still, you are encouraging blood to flow back to the heart and reducing the risk of venous blood clots and ankle swelling.

“However, elevation is only good if you also take regular exercise, especially in the colder months to improve blood flow and keep you warm.

“Simply going for a brisk walk outside or following an at-home workout plan can help boost mood as well as improve circulation.

“In addition, I recommend you try this helpful exercise to increase blood flow in the leg muscles – every half an hour stand up and pump your calves by rising onto your toes repeatedly for 60 seconds.”

Simple lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of venous disease and blood clots.

Although your chances of developing varicose veins or hidden varicose veins are largely down to the genes that your mother and father gave you, there are many ways to help reduce your risk of developing complications of venous disease and venous blood clots.

Professor Whiteley said: “The most effective and most obvious ways to help are staying fit and active, eating a healthy diet, and moving regularly.

“Also, having any varicose veins or hidden varicose veins treated effectively will reduce the risk of both venous diseases (tired and aching legs, venous eczema, brown stains and leg ulcers) and clots such as SVT and DVT.”

The expert also advises everyone to wear compression stockings on a long-haul flight (over four hours in the air) to help to reduce the risk of developing DVT by helping to speed up the flow of blood in the veins.

He added: “It is also important to make sure you stay hydrated, especially in hot weather, and reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake.

“Alcohol and caffeine act as diuretics, meaning that although fluid is being taken in, more is being passed out in the form of urine.

“Dehydration causes the blood to thicken, increasing your risk of a venous clot forming.”

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