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Blood Clots

Blood Clots Quick Overview

  • A blood clot is a normal function of blood cells that is used to repair damaged blood vessel walls. Blood clots become a problem when the blood "clots" are in an artery or vein inapproprriately.
  • Risk factors for developing blood clots in arteries include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and family history.
  • Risk factors for developing blood clots in veins include prolonged immobility, including immobility after surgery, hormone therapy (including birth control pills), smoking, pregnancy, and genetic factors.
  • Causes of arterial blood clots include rupture of atherosclerosis plaques, embolus from another location, and artery injury.
  • Causes of venous blood blots include stasis and chemical factors that cause the blood to clot abnormally.
  • Symptoms of blood clots depend upon their location and whether they occur in an artery or a vein. A blood clot in an artery that supplies blood to the heart or brain may result in
  • When blood clots occur in a vein, symptoms may include
    • pain,
    • swelling,
    • warmth, and
    • redness.
  • If a forms in a vein in a leg or arm breaks; breaks off and travels to the lung a pulmonary embolus can occur. Symptoms of pulmonary embolism are chest pain and shortness of breath.
  • Blood clots are diagnosed initially by history and physical examination. Other tests may be ordered depending upon the location of the blood clot.
  • The treatment for blood clots depends upon the location, but most situations require the use of anticoagulant medications that thin the blood.
  • Medications used for blood clot treatment thin or anticoagulate the blood include:
  • Complications of blood clots often depend upon their location.
  • Blood clots can be prevented by remaining active especially after surgery, quitting smoking if you take birth control pills, controlling and high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • The prognosis for a person with a blood clot depends upon the health of the person, the location of the blood clot, and how quickly medical care is accessed.

Picture of Blood Clots

Picture of blood clotting
Picture of blood clotting

Blood flows through the body in a continuous loop. Blood is pumped through the body by the heart, but that same blood returns back to the heart both by gravity and by muscles in the arms and legs contracting and squeezing, or milking, the blood back to the heart. If blood becomes stagnant, it may clot and cause potential life-threatening conditions.

The medical term for a blood clot is a thrombus (plural: thrombi). An embolus refers to the situation in which the clot breaks away from its original location and travels through the bloodstream to another location.

There are four potential outcomes regarding a blood clot. It will either

  1. grow,
  2. dissolve,
  3. embolize, or
  4. recannulate (a situation in which capillary blood vessels proliferate within the clot to form new channels so that blood may resume flow)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/27/2015

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