Each year in America, almost a million people are affected by blood clots for various reasons. A blood clot (a thrombus or embolus) forms a mass of coagulated blood in a vessel. It can block the flow of blood and cause serious health problems. They are dangerous and potentially life-threatening, so it is important to know what they are and how to prevent them. By understanding blood clots, you can be proactive about your health and take steps to protect yourself from these dangerous clumps of cells.
What are blood clots?
Think of a blood clot as a jelly-like clump. Most people’s blood clots effectively when cut or injured, which eventually stops the bleeding. Clotting is a normal bodily response; however, blood clots can sometimes go awry.
At random moments, clots can form in the vein, and instead of dissolving naturally, the clot stays in place. Depending on where a rogue clot appears determines if intervention is needed. The legs, heart, and lungs are dangerous and potentially deadly areas for blood clots to form.
Two types of blood clots
Most everyone has heard of blood clots and understands that they can cause irreversible damage, even death. But not everyone knows the details of the types of blood clots.
There are two types of blood clots: thrombus and embolus clots. You may have heard of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE); these two types of blood clotting conditions fall under the broad category of venous thromboembolism.
Deep vein thrombosis is a clotting condition that happens when a blood clot forms deep in a vein. This type can affect the legs, arms, thigh, or pelvis.
On the other hand, a pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that blocks and stops blood flow to an artery in the lung, which frequently begins in the leg due to DVT.
The CDC shares essential statistics on blood clots in the United States that are beneficial to know.
- Deep vein thrombosis affects almost one million individuals a year.
- Over 100,000 people die of blood clots each year.
- At least 30% of people who have had a blood clot will have another one within ten years.
- One in four who die of a pulmonary embolism will pass suddenly.
Most importantly, it is good to know that blood clots can happen to anyone and are often preventable.
Causes and symptoms of blood clots
Blood clots are a topic to take seriously, and the causes and symptoms are good to be aware of. Becoming familiar with blood clots might just save your life one day.
A long list of factors and conditions contribute to a potential blood clot forming in a vein.
These include but are not limited to obesity, pregnancy, cancer, heart failure, birth control, prolonged sitting and inactivity, smoking, surgery, family history, and even COVID-19.
Heart experts at the Mayo Clinic describe the common and other symptoms of experiencing a blood clot.
- Shortness of breath. This symptom usually appears suddenly. Trouble catching your breath happens even when resting and worsens with physical activity.
- Chest pain. You may feel like you are having a heart attack. The pain is often sharp and felt when you breathe in. You also may feel it when you cough, bend or lean over.
- Fainting. You may pass out if your heart rate or blood pressure drops suddenly.
Other symptoms to be aware of include the following:
- A cough that may include bloody or blood-streaked mucus
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Excessive sweating
- Leg pain or swelling, or both, usually in the back of the lower leg
- Clammy or discolored skin, called cyanosis
Of course, some of these symptoms can mean various things are going on in the body. It’s best to seek out medical treatment immediately if you don’t know the cause of how you feel and are concerned. It is much better to be safe than sorry.
Treatment for blood clots
Diagnostic tests exist for blood clots, but your healthcare provider will make the call as to which test is necessary based on your risk. Blood tests, ultrasounds, and MRIs are examples.
Medications, such as blood thinners, are helpful for prevention. Wearing compression stockings or socks is another great preventative measure. There are also more invasive treatments available.
Blood clots are no joke; they are much more common than most people think and can be deadly, especially in at-risk individuals. It is vital to be aware of the signs and symptoms of blood clots so you can take steps to prevent them from happening or get help if you think you have one. Remember, if you are ever in doubt, it is always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention. Contact a cardiologist at Cardiovascular Group, which has multiple locations throughout Gwinnett County, if you are concerned about blood clots.