Leg Pain and DVT

Patient Expert

I had quite a scare this past week. I woke up in the middle of the night with extreme calf pain in both of my legs. It wasn't like a charley horse or anything because the sharp pain was the entire calf and different from a muscle cramp. It's very difficult to explain and something I have never experienced before. It let up enough for me to go back to sleep, but my legs were still a bit sore the entire next day. I thought back and couldn't think of anything I did physically that would have caused this. However, I did travel in the car over Christmas for a few hours. I'm not paranoid about having another stroke, but of course my imagination got the best of me and I started envisioning all these blood clots forming in my legs. I got myself so concerned I nearly cried. So, instead of doing that, I just called my doctor.

The nurses weren't quite as concerned as I was. But, that is probably good. I didn't need a nurse to freak out on me while I was so freaked out myself. She just told me to get to the lab and have my pro time checked, a blood test which measures how quickly the blood clots. She also said if the pain became severe again to call back. She said typically if a clot was forming, both legs would not be affected or sore. Also, my leg would be sensitive to touch, swollen and hot. I didn't have any of these symptoms. So, I just got in the car and headed to the lab.

My blood work turned out to be normal, which means my blood was so thin, it wouldn't be likely a clot was forming. This is thanks to Coumadin, the blood thinner I'm taking. By the next day, my leg pain was completely gone. The whole thing is still strange to me. The only thing I can think could have caused it was traveling. Oh, and a movie I saw a couple of days before that. Avatar (the movie) was great, but be prepared to sit for nearly 3 hours. I remember now, when I was leaving the theater, my legs hurt really bad. I just can't sit for long periods like I could when I was younger. Of course, I don't consider myself old, but older, I guess. My doctor did say I wasn't wrong to call, though, because calf pain could be serious.

He was talking about Deep Vein Thrombosis, which is what I thought I had. I've talked about DVT before, a life-threatening condition caused by a blood clot that forms, most commonly, in the deep veins in the legs. DVT typically causes no symptoms, but in some cases can cause leg pain and swelling in the leg. Where it gets dangerous, is if it breaks loose and travels to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism.

People at risk of getting a DVT are people like me, whose blood is sticky and clots easily. According to the American Heart Association, other factors include: obesity, varicose veins, major surgery, bed rest, cancer, leg paralysis, pregnancy, estrogen and long-distance travel. As I mentioned before, if you do have symptoms, they would include leg pain (worse when on your feet), leg swelling and warmth or redness.

My doctor told me I did the right thing by calling him. I'm so relieved I wasn't having a DVT. The doc told me since my legs are so sensitive, I should try to exercise my legs regularly or walk and avoid sitting or lying down for long periods. He said if I am traveling or at the movies, try to take a break and stand up and stretch my legs. All of these can help not only to prevent a DVT, but stop my leg pain.