Blood clots are a serious complication that can arise from dealing with a spinal cord injury. I suffered from two recently and I need to take blood thinners because they are a reoccurring issue for me personally. Blood clots are especially dangerous in paralyzed patients because we are numb. We are not always aware that a physical problem such a blood clot or a pressure sore is developing due to a lack of sensation in the affected area. Standing can help to promote better circulation in the legs and may lower your long term risks of developing blood clots in your legs.
Deep vein thrombosis is a condition where blood clots form deep within the thigh. This is what I had happen to me recently. This is a condition that is life threatening and always requires medical treatment. These blood clots have the potential to break away and travel into the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism aka a heart attack.
Typical symptoms of a blood clot include redness of the area, local swelling, pain, and numbness. You may not experience pain or numbness due to being paralyzed. Make an appointment with your doctor if you have a red area on your leg that is swollen, warm to the touch, or the redness doesn’t fade. The easiest way to avoid DVT is to avoid sitting for extended periods of time. As you can clearly see that is impossible when you are paralyzed.
When to seek emergency care
You should seek care at an ER or call 911 if you suspect you have a blood clot and experience these symptoms:
- Shortness of breath.
- Pressure, fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of your chest lasting more than a few minutes.
- Pain extending to your shoulder, arm, back or jaw.
- Sudden weakness or numbness of your face, arm or leg.
- A fast heartbeat.
- Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
- Sudden blurred, double or decreased vision.
These are all signs of a heart attack and that your blood clot may have dislodged and entered your lungs.
Blood clots are treated using various therapies including medications to dissolve the clot and with ultrasound therapy to break it up with sound waves. Medications such as blood thinners make it more difficult for blood clots to form. There are not many ways a paralyzed person can prevent these conditions from arising, but you can make healthier choices to lower your odds. Stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight, and see your doctor as soon as you suspect there is a problem.