Under normal circumstances, the blood will clot, or coagulate, in response to an injury in order to halt excessive bleeding somewhere in the body. Usually these clots simply dissolve on their own. But in certain situations, a clot can form without the presence of an injury and does not dissolve naturally. That's when a blood clot can become a health problem that warrants medical attention.
Abnormal blood clots can occur for a variety of reasons. They occur more often in the elderly, and you're at a greater risk if you don’t move around a lot, have had a recent surgery or are obese. Other risk factors include bad bruises or broken bones, taking certain hormones, varicose veins, certain heart problems or a family history of blood clots, among others.
Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), for example, is a type of clot that forms in a major vein of the leg or, in some cases, in the arms, pelvis or other large veins in the body.
Symptoms and Complications
It’s often difficult to tell if you have a blood clot. However, the body may offer some warning signs. These can include pain, swelling or soreness in an arm or leg. You might also notice skin redness or warmth at the site of the clot.
The greatest health risks from blood clots stem from the complications that they can cause. For example, a blood clot can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. This may cause such symptoms as chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, breathing problems, a bloody cough or fainting. Clots can also travel to the heart, brain or abdomen and cause additional problems in these parts of the body, as well.
Treatment of Blood Clots
The risk for blood clots can be reduced with regular exercise and a healthy diet that includes less salt. It may also help to wear loose-fitting clothes, or compression stockings if prescribed by your doctor. Other strategies that may reduce the risk for blood clots include raising your legs above your heart occasionally from a lying position, raising the foot of your bed a few inches or taking breaks to get up and move from time to time if you're on a long trip.
Blood clots can be treated with medications that thin the blood (anticoagulants) or specific "clot-busting" medications that break them up. In some cases, clots may need to be removed with a catheter or through open surgery.
SOURCES: American Society of Hematology; U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Spending too much time sitting in front of the TV may up your risk of blood clots, study finds
Risk is similar to warfarin, study reports
Newer class of drugs can interact with multiple medications, researchers report
Online training aims to make sure those hospitalized get treatment to prevent dangerous blood clots
Fate of Affordable Care Act may depend on Senator's return to work
Even the common cold was linked to a 13-fold increased risk for about a week
Even people with a low risk of stroke could benefit, researchers say
Gut bacteria reacts to compound in eggs and meat to produce chemical that ups heart disease risk, study says
Exposure to high heat and physical exertion may increase risk of heart attacks, study says
Prolonged treatment to prevent clots may increase bleeding risk in some patients, researchers warn
More than 80 percent of patients who suffered a stroke weren't getting adequate anti-clotting therapy
Research looked specifically at bleeds inside the skull and near the brain
Study shows increasing risk of brain blockage with more severe gum disease
Produced when meat, eggs and dairy are digested, TMAO may trigger plaque buildup in vessels, researchers explain
Rare complication of transfusions has led to beefed-up testing requirements
Risk peaks in the first 6 months of hormone treatment, but overall odds are low, study finds
Venous thromboembolism is a serious complication of cancer treatment
It's for people who had prior stroke related to a hole in the heart
But doctors don't often suspect pulmonary embolism, researchers say
Chances highest among those getting emergency cesareans
But study couldn't determine why white male patients were more likely to get tPA in hospital
Instruments help avoid disability among stroke patients
While number of cancer drugs rose, development of new heart medicines stalled, study finds
Risk of death from blood clot rises along with TV time, study finds
Blood thinners -- not aspirin -- dramatically cut the risk of stroke, researchers say
Smartphone app may help some people with atrial fibrillation take drugs 'as needed,' study suggests
Both warfarin and the atrial fibrillation it's often used to treat may raise risk, study suggests
Study found the combo was linked to raised odds of irregular heartbeat
Less than half at highest risk take recommended blood-thinning medication, study finds
Both procedures reduce risk of stroke due to narrowed arteries, researchers find
Genetic legacy can affect risk for nicotine addiction, depression, blood clots and stroke, research suggests
One in three children with a clot was obese, study finds
They wear out faster but don't carry the clotting risks that metal valves do, research shows
Results led Sloan Kettering to change pre-op practices
Finding may lay to rest the notion that hormonal treatments raise odds for recurrent clots, expert says
Reaction to sudden fear might have had an evolutionary benefit, researchers say
Study found self-monitoring was linked to a lower risk of death after 5 years
People who had removal procedure were more likely to have functional independence after 90 days