A blood clot is a clump of blood that can form anywhere inside the body. Blood clots vary in size and restrict the blood flow to various different body parts. These are not only harmful but can also turn to be fatal if not diagnosed and treated on time.
Blood clots may occur in the arms, legs, lungs, abdomen (stomach), heart, brain, and even kidneys. The symptoms can contrast from mere swelling and mild pain to extreme cases of heart attack and brain stroke.
There are two main variants of blood clots.
- Thrombosis – Blood clots that are local, stay at one place in the body and do not move
- Embolism – Blood clots that break away from the spot and keep moving to different body parts through the bloodstream
In order to prevent blood clots, we must understand how they are formed, its common causes, early symptoms, the process of diagnosis and the treatment procedure. Please read through this detailed write-up for a thorough understanding of blood clots.
How are blood clots formed?
As soon as you get an injury or meet with an accident that damages one or more of your blood vessels, the platelets (tiny disc-shaped cells) in the blood are triggered to release chemicals that initiate the blood clotting process.
During the blood clotting phenomenon, the platelets attract other platelet cells which bind with each other and with the damaged blood vessels to stop bleeding and prevent further blood loss.
The blood clotting factors attract more and more cells to completely secure the damaged area and this causes the blood clot to grow huge in size. New proteins receive signals from the extra clotting factors that prevent the clot from spreading.
Once the damaged tissue begins to heal, the blood clot dissolves itself back into the bloodstream. But at a few instances, certain substances in the bloodstream like the plague, unnecessarily initiate the blood clotting process and that causes unwanted deep vein blood clots leading to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
What causes blood clots?
Although blood clotting is vital to restrict excessive blood loss after getting hurt, unrequired blood clotting can lead to a medical emergency or even death. The below-mentioned risk factors can cause blood clots to form without a trigger.
- Being obese or overweight
- Being over 70 years of age
- A personal history or family heredity of blood clots
- Sitting for extended time durations, especially during long flights or road travel expeditions
- Pregnancy or recent pregnancy
- An injury or trauma
- Undergoing a surgical procedure or hospitalization
- Prolonged bed rest suggested after a critical surgery or an acute illness
- Use of birth control pills that contain the estrogen hormone or any other hormone replacement therapy
- Cancers of the type lung, pancreatic, multiple myeloma, or blood cancer
- Autoimmune disorders
- Chronic inflammation diseases
- Infections such as HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease, hepatitis C
What are the symptoms of a blood clot?
In a large number of cases, the patients often receive warning signals that point towards a blood clot. You must carefully watch out for the below-mentioned most common blood clot symptoms:
- A feeling of warmth in the affected area, most commonly the leg
- The skin of the damaged area looks prominently red
- Swelling accompanied by pain in the damaged body part. If the blood clot is in the leg, the patient may find it difficult to walk or stand
- Numbness around the damaged blood vessels or tissues
The symptoms also differ with the location of the blood clot. The blood clot in the arms or legs may cause cramps and tenderness whereas the ones in the abdomen area can lead to vomiting and Diarrhea.
Certain blood clots can even travel to different parts of the body:
- Clots in the heart cause a heavy feeling and intense pain in the chest and upper area of the body, breathlessness, nausea, sweating, and light-headedness.
- A clot that moves to the lungs can lead to shortness of breath, fever, sweating, severe chest pain, racing heart, etc
- A blood clot in the brain can be truly dangerous as it causes weakness in the face, arms, legs and may affect the speech and vision of the patient. It is often accompanied by acute headache and dizziness.
At times it can get really tedious to diagnose blood clots as most of the above symptoms are often confused with a heart attack or a brain stroke.
How are blood clots diagnosed?
Whether you go for a first-time check-up or reach the hospital in an emergency, the doctor will examine your symptoms and inquire about your medical history. The doctor will also request details about your family history of blood clots and the medicines that you are currently taking.
The medical practitioner will also collect your blood sample and conduct a blood test to check for an autoimmune disorder or other infections. Your blood sample will also be tested for abnormal clotting or the presence of antibodies that may be interfering with the blood clotting process.
How can blood clots be treated?
Once the patient is diagnosed to be suffering from a blood clot, the treatment is fairly simple and straightforward. Almost all patients are advised to consume blood thinners and anticoagulants that help dissolve the existing clots and prevent the new ones from developing.
If you are obese or have a sedentary lifestyle, the doctors may suggest you improve your activity levels and shed the extra kilos by engaging in sports or other physical activities. You may also be asked to follow a strict diet and give-up on smoking.
To some patients, medicines for blood clot dissolution are given through the catheter that is inserted in the affected area through a small cut on the skin. In other critical cases, especially with blood clots in the legs or feet, doctors may suggest surgical removal of the blood clot.
After successful treatment, it is vital to visit your doctor at least once every few weeks for a proper physical examination and any desired change in medications.
Blood clots can easily be prevented if you are aware of its causes and take strict measures to avoid the common risk factors. Completely give up on smoking, lose weight, speak to your doctor about effective alternatives to birth control pills, and ask your doctor if you must consume blood-thinning drugs on a regular basis.
If you have a personal or a family medical history of blood clots, you must eat a nutritious diet and maintain a healthy weight. You must always be cautious and keep an eye on the common symptoms of blood clots. It is also advisable to undergo routine vein screening as you are at a high risk of developing blood clots due to a past case history. This will help in early diagnosis and efficient treatment of Deep Vein Thrombosis before the situation gets worse.
If you notice any of the above signs of blood clots in your body, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with the renowned interventional radiologist Dr. Rajah V Koppala at Avis Hospitals. He has 24+ years of experience and is known to offer the best medical advice and genuine medical treatment of endovenous laser treatment for DVT patients. Schedule your appointment today!