What are blood clots?

A blood clot is an organized clump of hardened blood. Normal blood clotting helps stop blood loss, such as when you get a minor cut or scrape. However, a blood clot that forms inside a blood vessel (artery or vein) or in the heart is called a thrombus and is a serious medical condition. Blood clots can form in the superficial veins just below your skin, or they can form in the deeper, large veins (deep vein thrombosis). Blood clots can also dislodge and move from their initial location to another. This is called an embolism.

Blood clots are more common in people who cannot move around easily because of advanced age, injury, surgery, or disease. People with certain blood clotting disorders that make their blood clot more easily have an increased risk of developing blood clots in the deep veins. In addition, certain cancers and estrogen-based medications can increase your risk for blood clots.

A blood clot is dangerous because it can block or reduce the flow of blood to the part of the body in which it formed. This blockage causes a lack of oxygen to the tissues (called ischemia) and eventually leads to permanent tissue damage.

Blood clots can also break apart from the blood vessel wall and travel to another location, such as the brain or lung, leading to catastrophic consequences. A blood clot that travels to the lung can lead to a pulmonary embolism, permanent lung damage, and even sudden death. A blood clot that travels to the brain can cause a stroke. A blood clot that forms within the arteries of the heart can cause a heart attack.

Your risk of developing blood clots can be minimized by making certain lifestyle changes and following your doctor’s treatment plan. In particular, regular exercise, smoking cessation, elevating your feet, and frequently changing your body position can help prevent blood clots from forming.

SYMPTOMS

What symptoms might occur with blood clots?

Blood clots can form without any related symptoms. However, there are certain hallmark symptoms that may accompany a blood clot:

  • Localized warm spot on your arm or leg

  • Pain upon standing or putting all of your weight on one leg

  • Skin redness

  • Soreness in your arm or leg
    <... Read more about blood clotssymptoms

CAUSES

What causes blood clots?

Blood clots can form in response to several factors, including a sedentary lifestyle and underlying medical conditions that make your blood clot differently or reduce the flow of blood through the circulatory system. Your family history and genetic factors may also put you at an increased risk for blood clots.

Underlying medical conditions that are associated with blood clots<... Read more about blood clotscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation