Our circulatory system is really amazing and full of wonderful abilities to sustain and maintain human life. It has its own check points and controls that are very helpful in managing any type of unwanted situation in the body.
For example, the blood has an amazing ability to clot. This ability is one of the greatest blessing for us but it turns into a nightmare when clotting happens abnormally.
Today we will discuss the causes of blood clots, its risk factors, and treatments.
Blood Clot: A Blessing
In a normal body if a blood vessel is damaged or is leaking due to an injury or cut a clot is formed. The purpose of the clot is to stop the leakage of blood as soon as possible.
Many molecules in the blood come to the damaged area to form a clot in order to stop the blood flow and repair the damage. One of them is the platelets. They come to the damaged area to form a temporary plug on the wounded site.
After that, a protein called fibrin comes to help and make a mesh like structure with platelets to further strengthen the seal. This is how your wound is naturally bandaged.
As the wound heals after sometime, the clots dissolves on its own. If clotting does not happen effectively and efficiently and too much blood is lost, then blood could flow uncontrollably and you can actually die from it.
Blood Clot: Not a Blessing
Yes, it’s true! And it can result into a fatal life threatening situation. If your body loses it mind for a while and starts making clots that are not required, then this can become a nightmare for you. Some blood clots actually are very mobile and they travel throughout the body from place to place.
There are times when healing mechanism start acting abnormally and makes clots in arteries or veins in your body or in the brain. These clots are very dangerous. They not only block the passage of blood to the organs but also make the blood stagnant.
Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a clot is formed very deep in the arm or leg. Such clots are very likely to break off from the primary site and enter the lungs or heart.
Entering in the lung or heart has very serious consequences. If the clot enters the lungs and block the arteries of the lungs it can result in a lack of oxygen.
Some clots dissolve on their own and do not cause any discomfort. Some of them don’t dissolve but they don’t move to other places. But others may detach from their primary place and move with the blood to the heart, lungs or brain.
Clots can form in your lungs, kidneys, heart, abdomen, brain, legs and arms. Depending upon the site they affect, clots show symptoms that cannot be ignored.
Let’s take a look at the symptoms you may suffer due to unnecessary blood clotting.
Types and Symptoms of Blood Clots
Blood clots show different symptoms depending upon the site at which they are formed. If they are formed in your legs or arms for instance, it causes redness, swelling and cramp like pain.
The swelling takes time to develop and generally it is often confused with an infection. The appearance and severity of symptoms can depend upon the clot size as well.
Small clots are tricky and sometimes do not show very evident signs. Some clots can swell only a certain part of your leg or arm. There are some instances though where your whole leg could get red and swollen with a lot of pain.
Let’s briefly discuss arterial clotting. Arterial clotting of blood is very dangerous and signs depend upon the location of the clot. For example, if the blood clot occurs in the arteries of your heart it can cause the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Uncomfortable pressure that may spread to your back or arms
- Shortness of breath
This is a medical emergency situation and can easily result in a heart attack. Blood clots in the arteries of your brain are also very fatal. A brain stroke could occur if the arteries are blocked.
Signs are typically loss of speech and vision, intense dizziness, weakness in one side of the body or in some cases numbness of one side of the body.
Abdominal clots is also something to be aware of. Abdominal clots cause diarrhea, vomiting, severe pain, bloody stool or bloating in the affected area.
Additionally you may have clotting in your lungs. Some symptoms to look out for are fever, shortness of breath, sharp chest pain, sweating, or even a bloody cough.
Some Causes and Risk Factors of Blood Clots
- Postpartum stage is a very risky stage as the chances of developing clots are very high. Pregnant women don’t move much during their third trimester and after birth they also rest a lot. This immobility and high estrogen levels make women more vulnerable to clot formation.
- If you are overweight, this would put more pressure on the veins of the legs. This increases the chances of developing blood clots.
- If you are using birth control pills, chances of getting blood clots are very high – Actually 3 to 4 times higher than normal. This is due to the estrogen in oral contraceptives.
- Immobility for long periods of time also causes clots in the blood. When the body is not moving, the blood circulation is slow and this can aid in clot formation. You may have to use a blood thinner, if you typically suffer from deep vein thrombosis or other type of clots.
- Age is also an important factor that affects the clotting ability of blood. Greater the age, greater are the chances of developing blood clots. As you age there are many other medical condition that can trigger a clot formation, such as cancer.
- Genes play a very important role in disease onset as well. If you have a family history of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) or any other type of clot formation then it’s very likely for you to develop blood clots. This is one of the most important risk factor of blood clot formation.
- Smoking effects all the parts of your body and mind so blood is no exception. Smoking damages the lining of vessels and also increases the ability of platelets to stick together. Both of these conditions increase the chances of blood clot development.
Treatment of Blood Clots
Blood clots are treated by medications in some instances. It depends upon the location of the clots. If the clots are not located deep in the arm or leg then you probably will only need medicine for pain and inflammation. An example of these could be ibuprofen, Advil, Tylenol etc.
But if the clot is located deep in the blood vessel then medicines to thin the blood are used. Especially, if you are suffering from deep vein thrombosis or a clot in your lungs, then doctors could advise you to take heparin and/or a anticoagulant such as Coumadin.
Blood clots can definitely be prevented. It really all comes down to knowing your personal risk factors and then making smart choices to control those risks. Here are a few to consider.
Change Your Habits
Medicines can only work if you take care of yourself and avoid the situations that aggravate your illness. You can prevent clots by changing your everyday habits.
One easy to do tip is to change your position after a few minutes of sitting. You should strictly avoid long term rest or sitting in the same position. Don’t wear tight clothes and also try to use compression stockings.
Exercise – Start Moving
Exercise is recommended for you if you have clots in your legs or arms. It allows blood to circulate more efficiently and it tremendously dissolves blood clots. If you are not able to walk or move around, then do some stretches of your legs and arms and keep them moving.
Food is a basic component of our life. There are many food habits that should be avoided to prevent blood clots. First of all you should be drinking plenty of water if you are at risk of developing a clot or have a clot in your body.
Tip – In the absence of water the blood consistency gets thick making it very difficult for blood to flow.
Another trick is to eat food rich in flavonoids. They help in the process of blocking the blood clot formation. Some foods rich in flavonoids are purple grapes, red wine, apple, legumes and citrus fruit.
You can also prevent blood clots by using virgin coconut oil with a high content of phenols. Phenols in olive oil have the ability to lower the level of promoters of blood clots.
Another great idea is garlic. Garlic has a lot of medicinal properties, one of which is its blood thinning ability. The only thing you should be cautious of is that if you are already taking medicine for blood thinning, then before you use this option consult your doctor. It could possibly interfere with the medicine.
Blood clots are not considered as dangerous as cancer but if they block major blood vessels they not only can be very painful but in rare cases they can cause death.
I hope that you have learned something new today about the causes of blood clots and thing you can do to prevent or lessen the discomfort they cause. I’d like to hear your experiences and thoughts below. Be Well!