Blood clots are part of the body’s natural defense in response to injury. The danger comes when they begin to form when they aren’t needed, resulting in a heart attack, stroke or other serious medical condition. Here’s everything you need to know about what blood clots are, how they form and how you can treat them.
What is a blood clot?
A blood clot is a collection of blood in the body that has changed from a liquid to a semi-solid mass. Platelets — cells that float in the blood — become sticky in response to an injury and start to attach to one another, as well as to a blood vessel wall. Web-like strands in the blood, called fibrin, then attach to the platelets and form a net that traps the red blood cells. When the injury is repaired, this reaction usually stops. A blood clot forms when the action continues and prevents blood from freely flowing through that vessel. The most common type of a blood clot is called deep vein thrombosis. DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins in the body, most commonly in the leg.
What are the symptoms of a blood clot?
Symptoms of blood clots vary depending on the size of the clot, which is why some people might experience no symptoms at all while others have more serious symptoms. Here are some of the most common symptoms of a blood clot and/or DVT.
- Swelling of the affected leg
- Red discoloration
- New visible veins in the area
*These symptoms can be associated with many different health and vein issues. Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect that you have a blood clot.
What causes a blood clot?
Many risk factors can increase your risk of developing a blood clot. Much of the risk comes from your blood flow slowing down when you’re not able to actively move around. Here are some of the most common risk factors:
- Inactivity related to an injury or a long car/plane ride
- Having surgery or being in the hospital for an extended period
- Damage to your blood vessels from an injury
- Consuming some medications, such as birth control pills
- Inherited blood clotting tendencies
- Being above the age of 60
How do I treat a blood clot?
Treating a blood clot typically involves the use of blood thinners, or anticoagulants, to slow down the body’s ability to form new clots and keep existing clots from growing. If clot-dissolving medications and other treatments are unsuccessful, a thrombectomy (physically removing or breaking up the blood clots) can also be performed.
How can I prevent a blood clot?
While everyone is at risk for developing a blood clot, there are steps you can take to reduce your chance of getting one.
- Know your family history. If you have a genetic predisposition to blood clots, you can make better decisions about what medications you take and pay closer attention to your lifestyle choices.
- Take care of yourself. Maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking and keeping your body hydrated can lower your risk for developing a blood clot.
- Move your body. Sitting in a car, on a plane or even at a desk for long periods of time can put you at risk. Stand up, walk around and move your arms periodically to get your blood flowing. If you’re in a car and are unable to walk around, contract your muscles while seated to move your blood around.
If you think you are at risk for developing a blood clot, schedule a consultation with a MercyOne professional or talk to your doctor about your risk factors and what you can do to reduce your chance of getting a clot.
Am I a Candidate?
Determine if you are at risk for developing or already have symptoms for venous disease.