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A blood clot is a semisolid clump of blood that forms inside a blood vessel. Research shows that your legs are the most common place for a blood clot to form.

Being immobile for long periods, damage to the lining of your blood vessels, and changes in the chemistry of your blood can contribute to the development of blood clots. Anybody can develop them, but certain people are at an elevated risk.

Risk factors reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include:

  • age
  • overweight or obesity
  • family history of blood clots
  • recently having cancer
  • being pregnant or recently pregnant
  • recent injury or major surgery
  • taking estrogen based birth control or hormone therapy
  • extended travel or bed rest

Without treatment, a blood clot can reach your organs and cause potentially life threatening conditions, including:

It’s important to treat blood clots as soon as they’re diagnosed to prevent serious complications.

Keep reading to take a look at how to dissolve blood clots in your legs.

Medical emergency

Blood clots don’t always cause obvious symptoms, but the CDC recommends getting emergency medical attention if you experience:

  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain that gets worse with deep breaths
  • coughing up blood
  • a faster than normal or irregular heartbeat

The agency also recommends contacting a doctor as soon as possible if you have:

  • swelling in your arms or legs
  • pain or tenderness with no obvious cause
  • skin that feels warm to the touch
  • redness or discoloration of your skin

Doctors often use the following to treat blood clots.

Anticoagulant medications

The most common treatments for blood clots are anticoagulant medications, also known as blood thinners. These medications reduce the chances of new clots forming. They also help your body break up any existing clots.

Warfarin

Warfarin is a prescription anticoagulant that works by blocking the formation of substances in your blood called clotting factors. These substances promote blood clotting.

Enoxaparin

Enoxaparin is also sold under the brand name Lovenox. It prevents blood clots by binding to a substance called antithrombin III, which inhibits clotting.

Heparin

Heparin works by weakening the effect of proteins in your blood that promote clotting.

Direct oral anticoagulants

Direct oral anticoagulants are a newer group of anticoagulants. A 2017 research review showed that they are at least as safe as warfarin. They’re also less likely to interact with other medications or supplements.

Compression socks or stockings

Compression socks apply pressure to your foot and leg to help bring down swelling and improve blood flow.

Compression stockings extend to your upper thigh. They apply more pressure around your foot and less pressure higher on your leg. This helps keep blood and fluid from pooling in your lower body.

A 2018 review followed 1,681 people before and after having surgery. The researchers found that only 9 percent of people who wore compression stockings on the day before or on the day of surgery developed blood clots. In comparison, 21 percent of people who didn’t wear compression stockings developed blood clots.

Thrombolytics

Thrombolytics are medications that dissolve blood clots. You can receive them through an IV, or directly into a blood vessel through a catheter. Currently, doctors use thrombolytics including:

  • alteplase
  • anistreplase
  • prourokinase
  • reteplase
  • streptokinase
  • tenecteplase
  • urokinase

Surgical thrombectomy

A thrombectomy is a procedure where a surgeon removes a blood clot directly from your blood vessel. You might have a thrombectomy to remove particularly large clots or clots that are causing concerning symptoms.

Vena cava filters

A vena cava filter is a device that prevents blood clots from passing through the major vein that leads to your heart called the vena cava. They’re usually given to people at a high risk of developing a condition called pulmonary embolism because they can’t take anticoagulant medications.

A blood clot should be assessed and treated by a medical professional. There’s no proven way to treat a blood clot at home with natural remedies.

If you try to dissolve a blood clot at home, it may take longer for you to get proper medical treatment. This can increase your risk of developing a potentially life threatening condition.

Some foods and supplements may help reduce your chance of developing future blood clots, but they shouldn’t be used as substitutes for medical treatment. Talk with a doctor before making any dietary changes, since some foods and supplements may interact with anticoagulant medications.

  • Turmeric. A 2017 research review found that the active ingredient in turmeric called curcumin has anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic effects. Its use as a complementary therapy for treating blood clots is still being investigated.
  • Ginger. The ginger plant contains the chemical salicylate, which is the chemical from which aspirin is made. Researchers are still investigating its potential benefit for preventing blood clots.
  • Cinnamon. Cinnamon contains a chemical called coumarin that has anticoagulant properties.
  • Cayenne pepper. Like ginger, cayenne pepper contains salicylates that act as anticoagulants. In theory, they may help reduce blood clotting, but more research is needed.
  • Vitamin E. This vitamin is a mild anticoagulant. Some studies have found that vitamin D and vitamin E lower blood clot risk, but other studies have found they have no effect.

Blood clots can take weeks to months to dissolve, depending on their size.

If your risk of developing another blood clot is low, your doctor may prescribe you 3 months of anticoagulant medication, as recommended by the American Heart Association. If you’re at high risk, your treatment may last years or be lifelong.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recommends the following habits for preventing blood clots:

  • wear loose socks and clothing
  • occasionally raise your legs at least 6 inches above your heart
  • wear compression stockings if your doctor recommends them
  • stay active, practicing any specific exercises recommended by your doctor
  • avoid sitting longer than 1 hour at a time and take regular movement breaks
  • eat less salt
  • avoid leg injuries
  • avoid crossing your legs
  • avoid putting pillows under your knees
  • raise the end of your bed 4 to 6 inches
  • take all the medications your doctor prescribes

When a blood clot forms in the deep veins of your leg, it’s known as deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis can lead to a potentially life threatening condition called pulmonary embolism if the clot leaves your legs and reaches your lungs.

The CDC says that about a third to half of people with deep vein thrombosis also develop a condition called post-thrombotic syndrome. This condition happens when the valves in your blood vessels become damaged. It can cause symptoms in your leg, such as:

  • aching, swelling, or pain
  • a feeling of heaviness
  • itchiness
  • tingling
  • cramping
  • ulcers

Approximately 10 percent of people with a blood clot in a vein will experience a recurrence within a year. It’s critical to contact a doctor if you notice any of the emergency symptoms above. It’s especially important to seek medical attention if you have any symptoms that may indicate pulmonary embolism, such as coughing up blood or chest pain that gets worse with deep breaths.

Blood clots can lead to serious complications like pulmonary embolism if not treated properly. No supplements or foods have been proven to be able to treat blood clots. Some foods have anticoagulant properties that may help you reduce your risk of developing future blood clots.

You should talk with a doctor before adding any new foods to your diet, since they may interact with your medications.