Arthritis and Blood Clots: How to Protect Yourself

While a blood clot can happen to anybody, people with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus have a higher than average risk of experiencing this potentially dangerous condition, according to the results of a recent study.

Scientists at the University of Oxford in England examined data over a 40-year period and found that autoimmune sufferers-particularly those with lupus-had an elevated risk of developing blood clots. Why do autoimmune diseases seem to spike the risk of blood clots? The study's authors aren't entirely sure but suggest that the same processes responsible for autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis lead to the formation of clots.

But while blood clots may seem to strike at random, experts maintain that there are definite steps you can take to lower your risk. Among the ways to prevent blood clots are:

  • Wearing loose clothing or socks. Having blood vessels that remain constricted is a risk factor.
  • Getting up and changing position. Sitting for long periods in one position is a known risk factor for blood clots. This can be particular problem during travel, as in cramped airplane cabins. Doctors recommend that you not sit or stand still for more than an hour at a time. Get up and stretch. Walk around a bit if possible. This will keep your blood moving and possibly help your arthritis symptoms.
  • Raising your legs above your heart. If you're at risk of blood clots, you don't want to give blood the opportunity to pool in your lower extremities. From time to time, raise your legs to give your blood the chance to circulate through the body.
  • Not crossing your legs. Crossing your legs restricts blood flow and may allow clots to form.

Signs of a blood clot include swelling, redness, warmth, and pain in the affected area. If your doctor determines you have a blood clot, you'll probably be put on a blood-thinning medication to treat it. The blood clot should then dissolve, but there is a chance that it will break loose from the spot where it formed and travel throughout your bloodstream. Be especially concerned if you suddenly have trouble breathing, have chest pain, feel faint, or start coughing. Blood clots that lodge in the lungs, called pulmonary embolisms, can be fatal if not treated immediately.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

Arthritis Research UK,