What are blood clots?
Blood clotting, also known as coagulation, is a process by which the blood changes from liquid to a semi-solid or gel-like red material. The blood basically thickens to form a blood clot. Therefore, we can say that blood clot is the resulting product produced by the process of coagulation. Blood clotting is also known as thrombosis.
Causes for blood clotting
Blood clots occur at different places for different reasons.
- At injury site
When functioning normally, the process of blood clotting is really helpful to stop bleeding when you have a cut or some kind of serious external injury. This is a kind of external clotting which is not harmful at all.
- Inside the body
Blood clotting produced inside the body might be harmful and may lead to the death of a person as it causes various problems like the clotting formed inside blood vessels, i.e., arteries and veins. These clots, if stuck at a place, might not be harmful, but when they are moving, they actually are harmful to your health. This is because they might get stuck in crucial arteries in the brain or heart which can cause strokes and heart attack and might even lead to death.
Clots can also be formed even when there is no injury. Also, when the injury or wound is healed completely, there are chances that the clot might not get dissolved. Some other risk factors1 that may cause clotting of blood include:
- Chronic health conditions
- Inactivity or immobility
- Family history of blood clotting
- Birth control pills
Conditions of blood clotting
There are two conditions of blood clotting. These are as follows:
Thrombus is the type in which the blood clot is stationary, i.e., the blood clot is stuck and doesn’t travel in the body through the bloodstream. But, it still can block the flow of blood.
Embolus is the type in which the blood clot moves or travels in the bloodstream. This kind of clotting is very harmful as the clot may travel through the vessels and stick in the heart or lungs, leading to various problems.
Types of blood clotting and their symptoms
The types of blood clots are differentiated according to the place in the body where the clots happen. These can be defined as:
- Arterial Clots
- Venous Clots
When a blood clot is formed in the artery, it is called an arterial clot. The symptoms of this kind appear quite soon after the clot is formed and needs emergency treatment. It can occur in the arms or legs. It can also happen in the heart and brain, adding to the risk of heart attack and strokes.
- Severe pain
- Coldness in the affected arm or leg
- Color loss
- Feeling of weakness in the affected area
- Numbness of affected area
Blood clots, when formed in the veins, are called venous clot. Clot formation of this kind occurs slowly; therefore, it is hard to notice unless your health starts to deteriorate.
There are further three types of venous clots:
- Superficial Venous Thrombosis (SVT)
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
- Pulmonary Embolism (PE)
These types are described below along with the symptoms:
Superficial Venous Thrombosis
Superficial venous thrombosis is the clotting that occurs in the superficial vein, i.e., near the surface of the skin. In addition, an inflammatory reaction occurs around the affected area, therefore resulting in the redness of the skin.
- Pain in the affected area
- Redness of the skin
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT occurs when the blood clot is formed in the major vein of the body. This is a serious condition that mostly occurs in the lower leg, thigh, and pelvis. Meanwhile, in the kidney, intestines, liver, brain, or heart, the chances of blood clots are rare.
DVT can lead to pulmonary embolism as it may break loose and travel to the lungs which can cause serious problems if left untreated.
- Cramping pain
- Redness & warmth
- Pain and heavy feeling in the affected leg
- Pain when the leg is bent at an angle of 90-degree or above.
Pulmonary embolism (PE) is the type in which the blood clot loose break and travel from the leg to the lung and gets stick there. Once DVT changes to PE, it becomes fatal (an emergency state).
- Breathing problem
- Chest pain
- Rapid or irregular heart rate
- Foggy mind
- Coughing up blood
Treatment for blood clotting
Various treatments and preventions are practiced to avoid blood clotting. Here are some of the helpful preventative measures and treatment options.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes and stockings.
- Raise your legs above 6 inches from your heart time to time.
- Don't stand or sit for more than one hour at a time.
- Do the exercise prescribed by a healthcare expert
- Don't use pillows under your knees when sleeping
- Raise your bed from the leg side to up to 4 to 6 inches with something.
- Eat less salt
There are basically four ways to treat blood clots. These are:
Primary treatment with medicines includes anticoagulation medication. These are also referred to as “blood thinners.” These are capable of slowing down the ability of the body to form new clots and also help prevents the existing clots from growing bigger.
- Compression stocking
Compression stockings are sometimes recommended to those who are at risk of experiencing blood clots. These compression stockings, better understood as special elastic socks, extend to the groin or calf and help to increase blood flow out of the lower limbs and back towards the heart.
- Thrombolytic therapy
This drug therapy involves using fibrinolytic agents that break up the core component of the clots which is known as fibrin2. Usually, the medication is infused into the clot via intravenous catheters.
- Vena cava filters
In some cases, a cone-shaped filter is surgically implanted in the inferior vena cava. This reduces the risk of the blood clot present in the legs or arms traveling towards the lungs and resulting in a pulmonary embolism.
- Heart.org - Understand Your Risk for Excessive Blood Clotting
- Encyclopedia Britannica - Fibrin