Blood clot recurrence is something that happens. It is true that blood clots can happen more than once to the same person. The fear of blood clot recurrence is not at all uncommon if you have experienced a blood clot. You are not alone in wondering if – or even when – a blood clot will happen to you again. While some people only experience one clotting incident, myself included, some people experience many clotting incidents or even continual clotting, which is frightening to think about. Whether you have had one clot or nine clots, the fear of blood clot recurrence is valid because blood clots are dangerous and they can even be deadly. Blood clots cause physical trauma, pain and discomfort as well as emotional and psychological stress, depression and anxiety. Wondering if a second, third, fourth or tenth blood clot will happen to you, only increases the sometimes already-present emotional discomfort of surviving something that one in three people sadly do not.
In the initial days, weeks and months after my diagnosis, I worried about a second blood clot all the time. I was fearful that every twinge, pain or unusual feeling was another clot moving through my body (presumably on its way to my heart or lungs) – and I was certain that clot would be the one to claim my life. The fear consumed me and at times I could barely eat or sleep. I felt alone in my fear and I wondered if I was overreacting, further emphasizing the thought that I should keep my fear to myself. No one understood, I was certain. So, not long after my initial diagnosis, I found myself trapped in a vicious cycle of worry and and fear of a blood clot recurrence.
For days, weeks, months and even years I worried, the everlasting fear of a recurrent blood clot was at the forefront of nearly all of my thoughts. It hurt, it took its toll on my physical and emotional health – I was tired and anxious – and I feared there was no way out.
Then one day, about four years into my recovery, I realized I wasn’t afraid of getting another blood clot anymore. It was a miracle, it had to be. That was the only explanation as to why a fear I had held on to for so long was seemingly suddenly gone – without any extra encouragement on my part. Of course I prayed, pleaded, cried and wished for the fear to go away, but it hadn’t for so long, so why now?
It was then that I realized, I had also come to understand a lot about blood clots – and even more importantly, a lot about myself – in those same four years. What scared me the most about my blood clot was that I had no idea it was happening: I didn’t know my risk, I didn’t know the symptoms and I didn’t know how I could have prevented any of it. From there, I was able to determine that – armed with knowledge and the passage of time – I had some very valuable tools to help me face, minimize and nearly eliminate my fear of blood clot recurrence.
How to Minimize the Fear of Blood Clot Recurrence
Know Your Risk for Blood Clots
One of the most important things you can do to help prevent blood clots is to know your risk for blood clots. I had no idea I was at risk for a blood clot taking birth control pills with estrogen until a blood clot happened to me. Learn about your risks now.
You are at increased risk for blood clots if you or a close family member have had a blood clot before; you have had recent major surgery; you have an inherited clotting condition; have cancer; are immobile for a long time (confined to bed, long-duration plane or car trip, etc.); are pregnant or have recently given birth; or use estrogen-based birth control pills or estrogen for the treatment of menopause symptoms.
You could also be at risk be at risk for a blood clot if you: have a hospital stay, major surgery such as abdominal or pelvic surgery, knee or hip replacement; have major trauma such as an auto accident or fall; live in a nursing home, are immobile, have leg paralysis, are on bed rest for three or more days or are over 65 years old; are on a trip for over four hours by plane, car, train or bus; have active cancer or chemotherapy treatment; have a bone fracture or cast; are taking estrogen-based birth control pills, patch or ring; are taking estrogen for the treatment of menopause symptoms; are pregnant or have recently gave birth; have had a prior blood clot or family history of blood clots; have heart failure; are extremely overweight; or have a genetic/hereditary or acquired blood clotting disorder.
Once you know your risk for blood clots, you can work with your doctors to determine what steps you need to take to help prevent blood clots. For example: I am at risk because I have had a DVT and PE and I have antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, an autoimmune clotting condition. For these risk factors, I take a long-term anticoagulant as part of my treatment plan. I am also at further risk if I sit for long periods or become inactive. For these additional risk factors, I make sure I move around during the day, take extra precautions on long trips and do my best to eat well and exercise.
It is important to note that in 30 percent of patients there is no known cause for blood clots, also called idiopathic. While this is scary in terms of understanding your risk, there are still important things you can do to help ease your fear of blood clot recurrence: recognize signs and symptoms of blood clots and take steps to help prevent blood clots.
Know the Signs and Symptoms of Blood Clots
One of the scariest parts about my blood clot experience is that I had no idea what to watch out for in terms of signs and symptoms of blood clots – so I did not know I had any until it was almost too late. Had I known that I was at risk taking birth control pills with estrogen and that severe pain in my leg and difficulty breathing when laying down were symptoms of a DVT and PE, maybe I would not have waited so long to get help.
A blood clot in your leg or even arm may lead to swelling of your leg or arm, pain or tenderness not caused by an injury or that does not subside, skin that is warm to the touch or skin that is red or discolored. Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
A blood clot in your lung can be life-threatening and may result in difficulty breathing, especially when lying down, chest pain that worsens with a deep breath, coughing or coughing up blood or a fast or irregular heartbeat. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you have any of these symptoms.
Take Steps to Help Prevent Blood Clots
The good news is, there are many things you can do to help prevent blood clots. Besides knowing your risk and recognizing the signs and symptoms of blood clots you can take some fairly simple steps to help prevent blood clots.
Talk your doctors if you have any risk factors for blood clots, including a family history of blood clots and together, devise a treatment plan. You can also talk to your relatives about your family’s history of blood clots. Before any surgery or procedures, talk with your doctors about blood clots to take preventative measures. If you are confined to a bed either in a hospital or at home due to surgery, illness or paralysis, talk to your doctor about ways to prevent blood clots. If you have been sitting for long periods or are traveling long distances, get up and move. Take steps to maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke or quit smoking.
Do I still worry about a blood clot happening to me again? Sure, I do. I think that is a very natural part of surviving something that other people do not. I worry from time to time. However, what I can also tell you is that my fear of blood clot recurrence no longer consumes my thoughts and my time. If I think about it at all, it is a passing though, most usually connected to a specific memory about my blood clot or recovery.
There is hope for healing and you are not alone,
Reader Writes In: Are you worried about another blood clot? How do you handle your fear? What tips for facing the fear of blood clot recurrence can you share with others? Share in the comments.
To learn more about what it feels like to recover from a blood clot, visit here.
Are you suffering from depression after a blood clot? You’re not alone. For some tips to deal with depression after a blood clot, visit here.
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