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Difference Between Leg Cramp and Blood Clot in Pregnancy

What is Leg Cramp and Blood Clot in Pregnancy?

Basically, a blood clot occurs in a deep leg vein in women during pregnancy, and is termed as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It can include symptoms of swelling and leg cramps.

 

Leg Cramp

A leg cramp is defined as a sudden and involuntary pain in the leg muscles. It is mostly caused by an involuntary shortening (contracting) of the leg muscle. A leg cramp mostly occurs in the calf muscles and, rarely in the thighs and the feet. Leg cramps last from a few seconds up to few minutes.

It is also termed as Charley horse.

 

Blood Clot

A blood clot (also termed as thrombosis) is a clump or mass of blood that forms when blood coverts from a liquid to a solid. The blood clots more easily in pregnant women as it flows in the legs at a slow rate in late pregnancy. The reason is that the blood vessels around the pelvis become narrower and more compressed and the growing womb (uterus) exerts increased pressure on your pelvis.

 

Difference between Leg Cramp and Blood Clot

Description

Leg cramp

A leg cramp is a painful tightening or contraction of a muscle that occurs suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to even 10 minutes. This contraction mostly occurs in the leg. It is also termed as charley horse. Leg cramps that occur in the night are usually sudden spasms, or contraction of muscles in the calf.

Blood clot

Blood clots form when the blood thickens, resulting in a semisolid mass. These are usually caused due to high BP, low haemoglobin, ectopic pregnancy, vitamin deficiency and Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in pregnant women. Once these clots form, they can travel to different parts of the body, causing harm.

Causes

Leg cramp

  • Overuse of a muscle
  • Tense or stiff muscles
  • Depleted carbohydrate levels
  • Poor blood circulation (due to the pressure of the baby on blood vessels)
  • Depleted levels of Potassium and Sodium (Salt)
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Uterus pressing on certain nerves
  • Reduced circulation in the legs from
  • Rising progesterone levels during pregnancy, affecting the leg muscle tone
  • Spinal compression
  • Electrolyte imbalances

Below given medications can contribute to leg cramps, such as:

Diuretics, Naproxen (Aleve), Albuterol (an asthma medication) and statins

Blood clot

  • High Blood pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Low haemoglobin
  • Smoking
  • Any surgery
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Cervix disorders
  • Vitamin surplus in the body
  • Polyps in the uterus and uterine fibroids
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Symptoms

Leg cramp

  • Hard lump of muscle tissue beneath your skin
  • Pulling and Tugging in the early weeks after conception
  • Muscle spasms in their legs

Blood clot

  • Usually develops in the leg, thigh, or pelvis
  • Skin is usually warm in the affected area
  • Skin at the back of the leg becomes red, typically below the knee
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Mild to severe swelling
  • Acute pain in the leg when moving around or while standing
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, light-headedness
  • Intense abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea 

Diagnosis

Leg cramp

  • Blood tests
  • Physical examination

Blood clot

  • Ultrasound
  • Blood test
  • Venography
  • CT or MRI scans
  • Angiogram

Risk factors

Leg cramp

  • Certain medications
  • Less exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Lower blood levels of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin B1, B5, or B6
  • Thyroid
  • Liver disorders

Blood clot

  • Obesity
  • Family history of blood clots
  • Lying down or sitting for a long duration of time (Immobility)
  • Damaged arteries or veins (result of injury, trauma, bone fractures)
  • Stasis (pregnancy and post-partum, heart or respiratory failure, increased age)
  • Central venous catheterization
  • Hypercoagulation—elevated rate of clotting that could be an acquired condition or an inherited defect

Prevention and Treatment

Leg cramp

  • Stretch your calf muscles
  • Take Magnesium supplements
  • Comfortable supportive footwear
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Take adequate calcium
  • Be active do regular exercising
  • If cramps occur at night, go for a warm water bath before bed to comfort and relax leg muscles
  • Put a hot water bottle or warm towel on the affected area
  • Massage

Blood clot

  • Anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents 
  • Thrombolytics
  • Catheter-directed thrombolysis
  • Surgical Thrombectomy

Lifestyle changes

  • Quit smoking
  • Change your diet

Supplements

  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Vitamin E

Essential Oils

Helichrysum Oil – Applying Helichrysum Oil topically breaks up coagulated blood beneath the surface of the skin. It also helps in increasing smooth muscle function, improves the condition of blood vessels by lowering inflammation, and lowers high blood pressure. 

 

Summary

The points of difference between Leg cramp and Blood clot have been summarized as below:

 

Dr. Amita Fotedar -Dr

Research Consultant: PhD in Environmental Sciences at History of working in Elite Research Institutes like United Nations Development Program
Dr Amita Fotedar is an experienced Research Consultant with a demonstrated history of working in elite Research Institutes like United Nations Development Programme, Istanbul, Turkey, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India and International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Srilanka.
Skilled in Biological Sciences, Environmental Health, Natural Resources, Water Resource Management, and Renewable Energy, she has a PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of Jammu, India. Apart from her PhD, she has a Post Graduate Diploma in International Studies from International Pacific University, New Zealand Campus, and has also been rewarded a certification in Climate Studies from Harvard University (EdX). She is a recipient of Academic Excellence Award from International Pacific University, New Zealand campus. At present she is pursuing MicroMasters in Sustainable Energy from The University of Queensland, Australia.
She is a Co- founder and Research Advisor for a New Zealand based Sustainability and Environmental Services Entity and is also a member of the Environmental Peacebuilding Association at SDG Academy, offering mentorship (a collaborative network of academic and research institutions under the auspices of UN Secretary-General). She has around 35 national and international publications to her credit.
Dr. Amita Fotedar -Dr

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References :


[0]Eagle, H. (1935). STUDIES ON BLOOD COAGULATION: IV. THE NATURE OF THE CLOTTING DEFICIENCY IN HEMOPHILIA. The Journal of general physiology, 18(6), 813-819.

[1]Sohrabvand, F., Shariat, M., Haghollahi, F., Khezerdoust, S., Foroushani, A. R., Nazemi, L., & Chammari, M. (2006). Prevalence of leg cramps during pregnancy and effects of supplemental therapy. Journal of Reproduction & Infertility, 7(1).

[2]Young, G. (2015). Leg cramps. BMJ clinical evidence, 2015.

[3]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sportex/6634104487

[4]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/healthiermi/6993357418

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