A blood clot refers to a clumping of coagulated blood that blocks blood flow. This can occur in the leg but also in the brain or lungs. Even small clots can cause minor problems. However, large blood clots can prove fatal. To prevent or treat blood clots, blood thinners can be prescribed. No matter where the blood clot is located, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.
A blood clot in medical terminology is called a “thrombus”. A thrombus is a pathological condition that results in the formation of blood clots. The Latin term for platelets, also known as thrombocytes, is what gives rise to the name thrombosis. The clotting of blood is a function of platelets, i.e. To stop haemorrhage.
It is essential for the body to have blood clot. If blood vessels become damaged, it prevents bleeding that could lead to serious injury. A blood clot may form due to blood vessel damage, such as sclerosis or sedentary living. This can impede or block blood flow to any part of your body. This can lead to a shortage of oxygen.
A blood clot can often form in the leg, especially in the calf. Sometimes, a portion of the clot may break off and be carried by blood to the lungs. This blocks blood flow and reduces oxygen supply. An embolism is a blood clot that has been carried by the bloodstream. A pulmonary embolism is an example of this. A blood clot that forms in the heart can cause strokes or cerebral infarctions.
What causes them?
Clotted blood is a blockage or impedement of blood flow through one of the vessels in the body that causes blood clots. This makes it harder for the heart pump blood and can cause insufficient oxygenation, which can result in a decrease in oxygen supply to vital organs.
There are many reasons why a blood clot may form:
- There are many genetic factors that can make you vulnerable, including blood disorders that impair blood clotting.
- Lifestyle factors like smoking, being overweight and living a sedentary life can affect blood flow and increase the risk for blood clots.
- You may also be at greater risk if you become temporarily incapacitated during long flights or are unable to move after an injury or illness.
- Due to hormonal changes in the bloodstream and hormonal changes during pregnancy, blood clots are more likely. Risk can also be increased by the hormone oestrogen. If you are at high risk of blood clots, it is a good idea to choose contraceptive methods that do not contain oestrogen.
- As we age, our risk of developing blood clots increases. People over 65 are more likely to experience symptoms. This is due to the fact that the blood vessels can become calcified or sclerotic with age. This causes blood clot formation and impedes blood flow.
Drugs and Vaccines
Certain vaccines against COVID-19 have been linked to an increase in blood clots during the coronavirus outbreak. Some vaccines can impair blood’s ability to clot. Some vaccines can cause blood clots as a side effect. Blood clots can also be caused by other drugs, particularly if there are severe medical conditions.
Who is most at-risk? You are at risk of blood clots because of your health:
- Old age increases the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis, in particular.
- Heredity can be defined as blood disorders and blood clots within the family.
- For example, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and conditions that affect clotting.
- TIAs and blood clots in the family or personal history.
- vascular damage, for example after surger.
- oestrogen therapy (oral contraceptives and other forms of oestrogen treatment), especially when combined with active smoking.
- Pregnancy and childbirth.
- Lifestyle factors include being overweight, smoking and high alcohol consumption.
Signs and Symptoms
A blood clot can cause various symptoms, depending on how large it is and where it formed.
In the Leg
A blood clot can form in the vein of the leg. This is called venous thrombosis, or phlebitis. The pain in the whole leg, calf and thighs can be caused by a clot that forms quickly. The leg becomes painful, hot, swollen and red. Sometimes, the blood clot forms slowly in the leg and symptoms appear gradually.
Common signs of a blood clot in your leg include:
- A feeling of warmth in your leg
- Swelling of the whole leg or the calf
In the Lungs
A blood clot can result in severe chest pain, shortness of breath, and coughing due to blood flow to the lungs. Although small clots are not always a problem, larger clots can cause serious complications.
The following are common symptoms of a bloodclot in your lungs:
- Dyspnoea or shortness of breath
- High heart rate and palpitations;
- Sudden chest pain that gets worse with deep breathing.
- Sometimes, cough with bloody mucus.
- Sometimes, dizziness or fainting.
Brain Blood Clots
A stroke is a brain injury that results in a blood clot. This can cause paralysis or loss of feeling on one side or the other. It may be difficult to speak, articulate and move normally, as well as your ability to maintain your balance.
The following are common symptoms of a bloodclot in the brain:
- Paralysis or numbness, usually in one side of the face, or an arm or leg
- An arm or leg weakness
- difficulty speaking, slurred speech
- Vision problems
- coordination difficulties
- Balance and dizziness
- Changed behavior and confusion
Sometimes blood clots may occur in other parts of the body, such as the liver, kidneys and intestines. Clots can also form when there are serious medical conditions.
Any other Condition
There may be some similarities between a blood clot in one’s leg and other medical conditions. Muscle spasms and osteoarthritis can cause swelling or pain. Varicose veins can cause stiffness or weight loss in the legs, as well as itching and cramps. For example, swelling can occur in both legs due to lymphoedema or heart failure. Baker’s cyst, also known as unilateral leg swelling, can often be seen in the knee crease.
A persistent chest pain, breathing problems, and an elevated heart beat could indicate serious conditions of your heart, vessels, or lungs. These conditions include angina, heart attack, heart failure and inflammation of the heart muscle. Asthma can lead to shortness of breath or breathing problems. Asthma can cause irritation of the pleura, which can lead to difficulty breathing.
For example, muscle pain near the heart can be caused by mental stress or sports pain. Pain near the heart can also be caused by gastrointestinal issues such as gastritis and severe heartburn. A herniated disk can cause pain radiating to the arms and muscles around the rib cage.
Sometimes, symptoms of a brain clot can look similar to other conditions such as visual disturbances due to migraine or benign paroxysmal situational vertigo. A brain tumour can also cause confusion and coordination problems.
Period Blood Clots
Most blood clots during menstruation are harmless. It is quite normal to experience them, particularly if your period is very heavy.
Urine Blood Clots
Gross haematuria is the presence of blood in urine that is visible to naked eyes. Sometimes, blood clots can also occur. This is a serious medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Acute retention of urine is the main danger when blood clots in urine. This is when blood clots in your bladder or excretory tract (ureters), preventing you from getting rid of the urine properly. This can cause severe pain and require rapid evacuation.
There are many reasons why blood clots can occur in the urine. These are the most common.
- A recent operation on the bladder
- A urinary tract infection
- Kidney stones
- Cancer (less common).
Stool Blood Clots
The more or less frequent release of red blood cells from the anus can cause blood clots in your stool. This is most often due to haemorrhoids.
There are other conditions that can lead to bloody stool.
- Anal fissure
- Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Trauma wounds to the anus
- Tumours of the anus or rectum, and colon
- Side effects of treatment (such side effects as non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs or anticoagulants)
- Procedures such as a colonoscopy
If you find blood in your stool, it is important that you seek medical advice so that the doctor can diagnose the problem.
A doctor should be consulted if you suspect that you have a blood clot. A haemostasis is also an option.
What are the treatments for blood clots?
Anticoagulants can be prescribed as a tablet or an injection to prevent or treat blood clots. They decrease the likelihood of blood clots developing. Anticoagulants are able to dissolve blood clots that exist and prevent new ones from forming.
For the first few days after a blood clot develops, you might need to be admitted to hospital. Sometimes, surgery or clot-busting treatments are necessary to stop blood flow.
What to do?
There are many things you can do to avoid blood clots. First, you should try to live a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of becoming overweight. It is important to exercise regularly, not only for your health, but also to improve blood circulation.
Compression stockings can be used to relieve or prevent blood clots from the leg when you travel or are undergoing an operation.
Here are some ways to lower the risk of bloodclots:
- If you are in bed or unable to move your legs, feet and toes, get up
- lose weight if you are overweight
- stop smoking
- If you are seated for long periods of time, such as on long flights, compression stockings may be a good option
Anticoagulants can increase the risk of bleeding. Because blood doesn’t clot the same way, this is why you should be aware of your risk. Always inform your doctor if you have bleeding or are hurt.