Blood’s clotting ability can save your life when it helps stop bleeding, but some blood clots can lead to serious health issues or medical emergencies such as heart attack or stroke.
Are you at risk for blood clots? Here’s what you need to know.
When a blood vessel is damaged, triggers are released by your body to tell platelets in your blood to plug the damaged part of your vein and keep your blood from leaking out.
As these chemicals are released, proteins in your blood signal a chain reaction which creates long strands of fibrin. These act as a net to trap more platelets and cells so the clot is durable.
When your tissue heals, your body doesn’t need the clot anymore. It dissolves the fibrin and the platelets and cells are absorbed back into your blood.
Blood clots can be helpful, but sometimes the body creates blood clots when they aren’t needed.
When cholesterol plaques form in the arteries and break open, the clotting process is signaled. Heart attacks or strokes often occur when an area of plaque in the heart or brain suddenly ruptures.
Clots may also occur when blood isn’t flowing properly through your veins. This is common with atrial fibrillation and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when slow-moving blood causes clotting.
Causes of blood clots include:
▪ Genetic blood clot disorders
▪ Heart conditions
▪ Immobility for long periods of time
▪ Medications, including birth control pills
▪ Surgery (especially with casts or splints and when the patient is immobile)
Symptoms of blood clots may depend on the location in the body. Some patients may experience no symptoms until the clot ruptures or dislocates and travels to other parts of the body.
The following are a few common blood clot symptoms based on their location:
Brain – Blood clots in the brain can lead to stroke. Symptoms include weakness on one side of the body and loss of vision and/or speech.
Coronary Artery – Blood clots in coronary arteries can lead to heart attacks. Symptoms include sweating, indigestion, chest pain, nausea, and shortness of breath.
Intestines – Symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, and bloody stool.
Legs – Symptoms include pain, redness, and swelling. Arterial blood clots in the leg are painful and can make the leg cool and pale.
Lungs – Symptoms include rapid pulse and breathing, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Unnecessary blood clots can be prevented by avoiding smoking and controlling diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It’s also important to keep moving — make regular exercise part of your routine, and be sure to move around as much as possible if you’re in a situation that causes long stretches of inactivity, such as long-distance travel. See your doctor regularly to learn if you’re at risk for blood clots or vascular disease and to manage your risk.
Our staff of board-certified physicians includes vascular specialists who can evaluate you for blood clots in leg veins that may indicate vein disease or DVT. To schedule a consultation, please contact us for treatment.