A blood clot is called a thrombus and defines an accumulation of blood that forms into a plug or clot that has the potential to slow blood flow inside a blood vessel. A clot can block blood flow completely. Blood clots can occur anywhere in the body, but most commonly originate in the lower extremities.
Blood clots typically form due to inadequate circulation caused by inactivity or injury to a blood vessel. Blood clotting processes are perfectly natural in the body and are essential in slowing or stopping bleeding following injury to small as well as large blood vessels.
Any injury to a blood vessel caused by blunt force trauma or a medical condition can contribute to formation of a clot. In most cases, the clots are beneficial, but in some scenarios, can increase the risk of dangerous conditions such as pulmonary embolism (PE), heart attack, or stroke.
Understanding what contributes to blood clot formation is the first step toward prevention.
Causes of blood clots
The primary cause of blood clots is pooling or collection of blood in a vein or artery, which in itself triggers natural blood clotting mechanisms in the body.
Blood clots occur dependent on certain situations. For example, a number of disorders can contribute to the development of blood clots, including clotting disorders, cardiovascular issues, or paralysis.
Blood clots can also occur after childbirth, following a heart attack, during post-surgical recovery, or through long periods of inactivity.
One of the complications of surgery is immobility during or following a surgical procedure that may contribute to blood clot development in the legs, known as a deep vein thrombosis for DVT. Such clots have the potential to dislodge and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, known as a pulmonary embolism (PE).
Arterial blood clots form in an artery, most commonly caused by medical conditions or circulatory issues that damage the smooth lining of blood vessels in the heart itself. A number of causes for arterial blood clots include atherosclerosis, heart valve disease, atrial fibrillation, or heart attacks.
Preventing blood clots
Avoiding prolonged periods of inactivity or bedrest is important in reducing the risk for blood clot development. When traveling, move legs often or get up and walk once an hour if possible. Adequate hydration aids circulation and prevents the blood from thickening or becoming sluggish.
If you smoke, make an attempt to quit. Smoking increases high blood pressure, which can damage blood vessel walls. Diabetes also increases the risk of blood clots. Individuals with diabetes or high blood pressure are recommended to maintain compliance with treatment plans to control their medical conditions.
Regular exercise maintains optimal blood circulation. For some, anticoagulant drug therapy maybe recommended. If you feel you are at risk for developing blood clots for whatever reason, schedule a consultation with your physician. Prevention and early intervention is optimal for vascular health and wellness.