Select a Topic
- What are Blood Clots?
- Diagnosing Blood Clots
- Symptoms Indicating a Blood Clot
- What Causes Blood Clots?
- Conditions that Contribute to Clot Formation
- Help for Blood Clots
What are Blood Clots?
Blood clots consist of blood cells and fibrin strands that form to stop the flow of blood after an injury. Blood clots are vital for wound healing.If blood was not able to clot, death would occur from excessive bleeding from a simple cut. Although blood clots are more common in adults, it is important to know that they can occur in children as well.
However, in certain conditions, the inappropriate formation of blood clots in vessels or organs of the body can occur, leading to a potentially extremely dangerous situation. When blood clots form within arteries and veins, they obstruct the flow of blood, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Blood clots formed after surgery or due to a traumatic injury may also be life-threatening.
There are several common areas where blood clots tend to form, including:
- Peripheral venous disorder - problems with the veins can cause blood clots to form
- Thrombopheblitis - an obstructing blood clot has formed, causing the surrounding vein to become inflamed
- Coronary thrombosis - a blood clot in coronary arteries leading to a heart attack
- Deep vein thrombosis – blood clot formed in a deeper vein
- Pulmonary embolism - a blood clot in the lungs
- Retinal vein occlusion - blood clot in a vein of the eye
- Perianal Hematoma - a blood clot in the near or within the anus
Diagnosing Blood Clots
The diagnosis of blood clots is based on a physical examination and medical history of the patient. Various tests may be performed, including:
- Doppler ultrasound
- CAT scan
A venogram may also be ordered to assess venous blood flown, while an angiogram will be able to determine blood flow in the arteries.
The symptoms and signs of blood clots typically depend on location in the body. Some can be very serious, leading to a stroke, ischemic attack, or heart attack.
Symptoms Indicating a Blood Clot
- If a blood clot occurs in the lung, you may experience:
- Sharp chest pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Mild fever
- Coughing up blood
- If there are blood clots in the arteries of the arms, leg, or feet you may feel or see:
- Sudden pain
- Joint Pain (e.g. Pain in the knee, elbow, etc.)
- Bluish discoloration
- If blood clots appear in the brain or head, you may experience::
- Visual disturbances (Hallucinations)
- Speech impairment
- If blood clots form in the abdomen, symptoms may include:
- Severe stomach or abdominal pain
What Causes Blood Clots?
There are various reasons for the formation of blood clots, from traumatic injury to certain surgical procedures.
Certain medical conditions are also associated with the increased likelihood of clot formation:
- High blood pressure
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Varicose veins and other vascular conditions
Additional Conditions that Contribute to Clot Formation
- Genetic factors such as inherited tendency for deep vein thrombosis
- Atrial fibrillation
- Valvular heart disease
- Autoimmune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
- Bleeding disorders such as hemophilia
There are also a number of risk factors that can contribute to the development of blood clots, including:
- Lack of exercise
- Use of contraceptive pill or patch
- Advanced age
- Sitting or lying in one position for prolonged periods of time
- Genetic factors
- Elevated levels of homocysteine
Help for Blood Clots
Treating blood clots depends on whether the clot has formed in a vein or an artery. The size of the clot, location, and the person’s general health are also taken into consideration. If a clot develops in an artery and results in a stroke or heart attack, thrombolytic medications may be administered intravenously to dissolve the blood clot.
If a blood clot forms in a vein, it could travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. A combination of heat, painkillers, anti-clotting drugs, elevation and bandaging of the affected area are commonly used to treat venous thrombosis. In severe episodes, surgery may be performed to remove the blood clot before it travels to the lungs.
The best way to treat blood clots is to prevent them.
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid sitting for prolonged periods
- Lead a healthy lifestyle
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid obesity, a risk factor
- If you smoke, try to stop smoking naturally
- Avoid sitting cross-legged
- Avoid wearing tight garments such as knee hosiery below the waist
- When traveling by air, get up to stretch at least once an hour