To get rid of blood clots, you'll likely need a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.
Blood clots are usually treated with blood thinners, but in rare cases, you may need a surgical removal of the clot.
You can reduce your risk of blood clots by improving circulation and keeping your blood flowing: frequent physical activity and wearing compression stockings can especially help get rid of clots.
If you've been diagnosed with a blood clot — especially dangerous types like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) — your doctor will recommend a treatment plan depending on the size and location of the clot.
Here's what you need to know to get rid of blood clots and how to reduce your risk of getting another one.
How to get rid of blood clots
If your doctor deems the clot low-risk, they may opt to monitor it and see if it will dissolve on its own over time. "Our bodies do an incredible job of getting rid of blood clots themselves," says Stanislav Henkin, MD, who practices cardiovascular medicine at the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
However, patients with blood clots that are blocking a deep vein (DVT) or that present a danger of coming loose and traveling to the heart are treated with anticoagulant medications, known as blood thinners. These keep the clot from getting bigger and stop new clots from forming.
The most well-known blood thinner is warfarin (commonly known as Coumadin). People on this medication need to avoid certain medicines and foods, including alcohol, garlic, and cranberries, and they'll also need regular blood checks. Newer blood thinners, called direct oral anticoagulants, have fewer side effects and don't require on-going blood monitoring.
Both types can be effective: for every 15 people taking these blood thinners, one clot will be prevented. However, they also carry risks. About one in 87 people on blood thinners will experience a serious bleed. If you are on blood thinners and start bleeding you should go to the hospital, where you may be be given a reversal drug to stop the bleeding.
In very rare cases, patients might need a surgical thrombectomy, or surgical removal of the clot. This is usually reserved for extremely sick patients, like those on a ventilator who develop a blood clot in the lungs (PE), says Henkin.
How to reduce your future risk of blood clots
People who have had one blood clot are at increased risk for further clotting: about 22.9% of people will experience another clot in the four years following the first. But there are a few ways to prevent clots from occurring.
Boosting circulation with regular physical activity can reduce your risk of blood clots by up to 39% in women and 22% in men. It's also important to keep the blood flowing, especially if you're sitting still for long periods of time. Henkin says you should move around as much as possible during long flights or car rides.
As with exercise, stockings can help keep blood circulating, which reduces the risk of clots forming. There are medical and non-medical options for compression stockings, and your doctor can suggest which is right for you.
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