Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Beware the Blood Clot

Friday, 20 May 2011 04:51 PM

Question: What causes the ankles and legs below the knees to swell and feel very uncomfortable and tight to the touch?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Edema in the legs with tightness is very suggestive of obstructed venous or lymphatic return. If not caused by a blood clot itself, the very existence of this swelling places you at high risk for blood clot formation. Often, blood clots affect one leg or the other, but up to 20 percent of patients may have clots in both legs without knowing it.

If both your legs are involved, it also may be related to poor venous return to the heart due to various causes, or even from other conditions associated with trauma, infection, drugs, heart failure, advanced lung disease, or thyroid/liver/protein disorders.

Blood clots in the deep veins of our legs occasionally break free and land in the lung causing a blockage known as a pulmonary embolus, a life-threatening condition. Superficial vein clots are not usually life threatening.

See your doctor immediately for a professional evaluation. If necessary, he or she will order an immediate painless ultrasound study to confirm the diagnosis. This rapid intervention may save your life if you have a clot. Once your doctor has correctly diagnosed this, your next step is to follow advice on timely treatment and prevention. Remember that this kind of swelling, if not from a clot now, definitely predisposes you to later clot formation, and aggressive management to correct this is usually advisable.

© HealthDay

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