Treating DVT is important because of the risk of a life-threatening complication known as pulmonary embolism. This occurs when the blood clot breaks off and travels through the blood and blocks an artery in the lung.
Once you receive a diagnosis of DVT, you’ll likely be prescribed medications known as anticoagulants, or blood thinners. These work to keep the clot from growing and to prevent further clots. Research shows that taking these medications at home is just as safe and effective as taking them while in the hospital.
You can also help treat your symptoms and prevent another blood clot from forming with a few home remedies and lifestyle changes.
The main focus of DVT treatment at home includes:
- taking your prescribed anticoagulant medicine safely
- relieving symptoms, such as leg pain and swelling
- lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of another blood clot forming
Your doctor may give you the first dose of an anticoagulant medication while you’re still in the hospital. They’ll give you detailed instructions for taking additional doses at home. You may have to take the anticoagulant medication for three to six months, sometimes longer.
Make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Taking too much of an anticoagulant medication like warfarin can thin the blood too much and lead to bleeding problems.
To avoid bleeding problems, you can follow these steps:
- Prevent injuries or falls, which include avoiding contact sports, wearing protective gear like a helmet, or using a walker or cane.
- Inform your doctors about any other medications, supplements, and vitamins you’re taking.
- Visit your doctor for regular partial thromboplastin time (PTT) tests to make sure you’re receiving the right dose of anticoagulant if your doctor tells you to do so.
- Avoid changing or stopping your medication unless your doctor tells you to.
- Take your medication at the same time each day.
- Call your doctor if you miss a dose.
- Make sure all your doctors and dentists know you’re on anticoagulants.
- Eat a balanced diet.
Management at home
DVT doesn’t always cause symptoms, but it can sometimes result in leg pain or swelling. The pain usually occurs in the calf and feels like an intense cramp.
To ease the pain and swelling of a DVT, you can try the following at home:
- Wear graduated compression stockings. These specially fitted stockings are tight at the feet and become gradually looser up on the leg, creating gentle pressure that keeps blood from pooling and clotting.
- Elevate the affected leg. Make sure your foot is higher than your hip.
- Take walks. Aim for walks three to five times a day to improve blood flow to your legs.
If you’ve been prescribed anticoagulant medications, don’t take aspirin and medications that contain aspirin. Avoid other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as well. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).
Lifestyle changes for prevention
Along with managing your symptoms, it’s important to make changes to your lifestyle in order to prevent DVT happening again. Certain people are at a higher risk of developing DVT, including:
- people who are having surgery in the lower extremities
- heavy smokers
- people with a family history of DVT
- pregnant women
These lifestyle changes can help prevent DVT:
- Quit smoking.
- Lower your blood pressure with dietary changes, like reducing your salt and sugar intake.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Get up and walk around every so often if you’re driving or on a long flight. Flex your feet to stretch out your calves.
- Exercise, such as walking or swimming, every day.
- Don’t wear tight clothing when traveling long distances.
- Wear graduated compression stockings, especially after a surgery or if you’re on bed rest.
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Stop taking birth control pills prior to surgery, if directed by a doctor.
Herbs for prevention
Adding certain herbs to your diet in small amounts is generally safe, but you shouldn’t take any herbal or vitamin supplements or consume large amounts without first consulting your doctor. Certain herbs and vitamins can cause dangerous drug interactions.
The following herbs and supplements may be effective in preventing blood clots:
Ginger may help prevent DVT because it contains an acid called salicylate. Acetyl salicylic acid, which is derived from salicylate and is commonly known as aspirin, is used to prevent stroke. Ginger is a common ingredient in many recipes. It can also be made into a tea. Ginger has many other health benefits as well.
A compound in turmeric called curcumin is responsible for its blood-thinning properties. Curcumin may help improve the function of the endothelium, or the lining of the blood vessels, and improve its ability to regulate blood pressure and blood clotting.
You can use turmeric as a spice in any recipe, or try it in a drink with milk and honey. It’s also available in supplement and extract form.
Cayenne peppers contain high amounts of salicylates. They may help lower blood pressure, thin the blood, and increase circulation. Cayenne peppers can be added to your cooking whole, or they can be ground up into a powder. If spicy food isn’t your thing, you can take cayenne pepper supplements in capsule form.
Foods high in vitamin E are natural blood thinners. You can find vitamin E in olive, corn, and soybean oils. Other vitamin E-rich foods include greens like spinach and kale, kiwi, almonds, tomato, mango, and broccoli.
Don’t eat very large amounts of leafy green vegetables if you’re taking warfarin. Leafy green vegetables contain vitamin K. Too much vitamin K can lower the effect of warfarin.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids may help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, and inflammation. All of these play a role in preventing blood clots. You can find omega-3s in fish or fish oil supplements.
Along with taking the anticoagulant medications prescribed by your doctor, you can manage your DVT risk successfully at home with a few simple lifestyle changes.
DVT is a serious condition. Always follow your doctor’s advice for prevention and treatment, especially if you’re at a higher risk of developing it. If you don’t treat DVT, the clot can break loose and lodge in the small blood vessels of your lungs. This causes a dangerous condition known as a pulmonary embolism. Call 911 or local emergency services right away if you have any signs of a pulmonary embolism. These include:
- chest pain that worsens when you cough or breathe deeply
- rapid breathing
- coughing up blood
- fast heart rate
Remember that certain herbal supplements and vitamins shouldn’t be taken with your anticoagulant medication. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any signs of abnormal bleeding due to your anticoagulant medication, including:
- coughing or vomiting blood
- blood in the stool or urine
- a nosebleed that doesn’t stop
- bruises that form without a known cause