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Blood Clot Symptoms

When we bleed, our body creates blood clots to stop the bleeding. However, if a blood clot prevents the flow of blood, or blocks a vein or an artery, it may be harmful or hazardous to health. The symptoms of a blood clot vary depending on its type and location.
Natasha Bantwal
Last Updated: Feb 14, 2018
Our heart continuously pumps a liquid tissue within the body vessels called blood. Blood travels to each and every cell, organ, and part of the body. Blood consists of various types of cells with different functions. These include the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In case of an injury or blood vessel damage, platelets spring into action. Platelets tend to release certain chemicals that help in clotting the blood. A protein called fibrin is formed that helps in forming a clump of blood clot. Generally, the human body creates blood clots if a blood vessel is damaged; once it heals, these blood clots dissolve. A thrombus is the medical term used for a blood clot that obstructs or stops the blood flow, blocking a vein or artery. If at all it breaks free and starts to travel throughout the body, it could cause some very serious problems that are potentially fatal.

Blood clots are semi-solid masses made up of sticky blood cells, which are formed when blood vessels are damaged. The body creates these clots as a kind of response to this blood vessel damage. The main duty of the clot is to seal the damaged blood vessel and prevent blood from leaking. Blood clots that block arteries and prevent flow of oxygen and blood to an organ can cause serious tissue damage in the body. And when clots break away from a certain area -- instead of protecting -- they can endanger the organs. Blood clots that block the flow of blood are usually the main culprits in strokes and heart attacks.

Blood clots may damage the functioning of the heart, the brain, and eyesight.
  • When a clot is formed in the arteries that are supplying blood directly to the heart, it can block this flow of blood, thus completely cutting off or reducing the oxygen supply to the cells in that area. As a result, the part of the heart that has been deprived of oxygen will die, and this can cause a heart attack.
  • Blood clots that block the oxygen supply to the brain cause strokes.
  • Blood clots that are formed in the eye can lead to permanent blindness.
Deep vein thrombosis is the condition that occurs when a blood clot affects some of the deeper and larger veins, like the ones found in the thighs and lower legs.

Symptoms

There are a number of symptoms of a blood clot. These symptoms tend to depend on the type of blood clot the patient suffers from as well as its location. In many cases, the patient experiences no symptoms at all.

In the Heart
Blood clots, at times, can completely block an artery that pumps blood into the heart, thus leading to a heart attack. Most of the time, a heart attack caused by blood clots starts with chest pain radiating from the center of the chest, upwards to the jaw, the back, and the arms. Sometimes, the pain will also be felt in the abdominal region. In most cases, people experiencing heart attacks will speak of a pounding sensation and tightness in the chest. The heart may beat irregularly and the pulse rate will speed up. Shortness of breath, vomiting, nausea, and fainting or even collapse are the first signs of a heart attack.

Arterial thrombosis can occur due to a blood clot in an artery. These blood clots lead to atherosclerosis, angina, as well as heart attack. One may experience pain in the chest after undergoing a physical activity or when under stress. Other symptoms of blood clot include breathlessness, exhaustion, and fatigue.

In the Brain
Arterial thrombosis is one of the leading causes of stroke. A blood clot can block an artery that supplies blood to the brain. Blood clots that cause strokes, usually have symptoms that are more pronounced on the opposite side of the body. This could result in paralysis or loss of sensation in one side of the face, leg or arm. It may lead to blindness, too. It could also lead to complete paralysis of the one entire side of the body. If the left side of the brain is affected, the person will experience speech problems. It may also cause the patient to drool saliva due to weakness in the face. Other symptoms leading to strokes include severe headaches, difficulty swallowing, confusion, or loss of balance and coordination.

In Surface Veins
Inflammation in the surface veins is also a symptom of a blood clot. This could produce discomfort and pain. Blood clots that are formed in these surface veins, usually do not break loose and travel in the blood stream, and so, they don't cause any blockage and complications in the organs.

In Arms
Venous clots cause disruption in the flow of blood back to the heart. The medical term for venous clots is venous thromboembolism. These blood clots are generally observed occurring in the arms or legs. Some of the symptoms of blood clot in arms include warm sensation in the arm, swelling, redness, and pain in the affected area. A patient may even complain of itchy skin, rash, and prominent veins in the area of clot. One may even experience a mild fever.

In Legs
Symptoms of blood clots in legs are similar to those experienced in the arms. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a type of blood clot that, mostly occurs in legs. The symptoms include pain in the leg without swelling. Standing for long periods, leg injury, use of birth-control pills, hormone replacement therapy, obesity, pregnancy, chronic inflammatory disease are some of the factors that lead to blood clots in legs. Blood clots in the leg cause swelling, pain, increased warmth, and redness. The classic symptoms of such blood clots are the following:
  • Swelling in the area;
  • Tenderness or pain over a vein;
  • Redness;
  • Sharp, shooting pain when the foot is being flexed;
  • Warm sensation;
  • Dull, aching throb in the calves, especially when the person is walking;
  • Widening or dilation of the surface veins.
This can lead to serious complications, and blood clots that are formed deeper in the veins may break away, becoming a traveling blood clot, medically termed an embolus. This embolus can travel and get lodged in the lung; this condition is known as pulmonary embolism.

In the Lungs
Pulmonary embolism is caused due to a traveling blood clot. This leads to symptoms of blood clot in lungs. One experiences shortness of breath, even when one is resting or is in a relaxed mood. Since clots in deep vein thrombosis tend to cause symptoms in the early stages, the first few warning signs occurs when the clot breaks loose and starts traveling toward the lung. The early signs of blood clot include chest pain, bloody sputum and breathlessness.

Know This

Studies have proven that airplane travelers who fly for 4 hours or more, are three times more likely to develop blood clots than the time when not flying. Thus, flying increases the risk of blood clot symptoms. It is more common in people, who sit in economy-class section. The cramped space may lead to deep vein thrombosis in the arms and legs. If the clot breaks free, it can lead to pulmonary embolism. It is not just flying that leads to blood clots; it can also occur when one a long and cumbersome train or car journey. People who sit at their desks for long periods without much physical activity, may suffer from these clots, too. The symptoms include swelling in one or both legs and arms, unexplained bruising, breathlessness, chest pain, even fainting spells.

Diagnosing Blood Clots

Your doctor may ask you to provide information about your family and if anybody in your relation has had a history of blood clotting before 40 years of age. He may also ask you to inquire if a female member in your family has had a problem of blood clotting during pregnancy or while on birth-control pills. A history of any member in your family having an unexplained unusual case of blood clotting, such as clots in the liver or kidney is also a potent clue for the medical fraternity to comprehend the reason behind your clots.

Your doctor may also conduct a physical examination to further understand and support the collective cause of blood clots. Besides, certain blood tests are also conducted in order to look at the blood cells and obtain the cause of blood clots through the blood-clotting process. If the results procured, spell an evident genetic etiology, other related blood tests are also demanded. Tests requiring to understand the clotting process further, are for gene mutation, the degree to which it can cause blood clotting, and for antibodies with regard to antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.

Your homocysteine levels may also be checked to see if blood clots pose a greater risk of vascular disease. Essentially, an amino acid which plays a major role in building proteins found in the blood, homocysteine is gained through following a diet rich in meat.

Tests may also be demanded to study the active proteins in the clotting process and the time it takes for the blood clot to form. These clotting proteins, which act active, go through a reaction along two pathways called intrinsic and extrinsic pathways. These two pathways that are built of chemical reactions, occurring in a particular order intersect at a common single pathway developing a fibrin network that constitutes the process of clotting. Thus, to understand the active proteins and the duration of clotting process, two tests are conducted. A PT test looks at the extrinsic pathway and the common pathways to measure the time taken for the formation of blood clots. On the other hand, a PTT test measures the intrinsic pathway along with the common pathway, and the duration of blood clotting process.

Preventing Excessive Blood Clotting

It may be said that genetic causes may bot be averted as a cause of excessive blood clotting; however, certain measures may be taken to control certain factors in order to avoid risks.

Consult your doctor, and acquire all possible treatment for conditions that put you at the riskier side of the totem pole, such as heart diseases or diabetes.
Considerable changes in the dynamics of your lifestyle may also be a rescue mission that you may want to take up in the name of your well-being.
Lose weight if you have to, go for brisk walks, indulge in exercising regularly; if this is what your condition demands, give your best, and reduce your risk of excessive blood clotting.
Discuss with your doctor on how to reduce the high homocysteine levels. Vitamins B6 and B12 may help you in the process.

Disclaimer: The article published herein, is meant to accomplish pedagogical purposes only. The recommendations mentioned hereby may not be generically applicable. The information, by no means, intends to supplant the diagnosis and advice imparted by the medical practitioner.
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