A blood clot, known as an embolism, develops due to a variety of reasons and in different parts of the body. However, all blood clots are constructed of blood and blood components.
Two main types of blood clots include the thrombus or the embolus. A thrombus has the potential to block an artery and inhibit adequate blood flow to an organ such as the brain or the heart, but typically doesn’t move. An embolism is a clot or part of a blood clot that has broken loose from its foundation and travels to different parts of the body through the blood stream. This type of clot is especially dangerous due to this ability to travel – such as from the leg to vessels that transport blood to the brain, the heart, or the lungs.
Where do blood clots originate?
Blood clots originate in various part of the body. A blood clot can form in an artery (arterial blood clot) or a vein (venous blood clot). Arteries carry oxygenated blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Veins transport de-oxygenated blood back to the heart and then the lungs for more oxygen before it cycles through the heart and is pumped back into the arteries.
Arterial blood clots may form in any artery transporting oxygen and nutrient-rich blood. They can form in peripheral arteries such as those found in the legs, or in the brain or the heart muscle. They may also occur in arteries that feed the kidneys and intestines – any organ structure in the body supplied by an artery.
When an arterial clot forms, it obstructs blood flow. This restriction may ‘starve’ an area of the body or an organ of oxygen. When that happens, damage occurs, as every cell in the body requires oxygen for life.
Venous blood clots form in veins. One of the most common sites for venous blood clots are the legs. Three types of venous blood clots are identified:
- Superficial venous blood clot (thrombosis)
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Pulmonary embolism (PE) – a blood clot that travels to the lungs. This type of clot is very serious and should be considered a life-threatening emergency
These types of clots form more slowly. Nevertheless, formation of any type of blood clot is an indication that something’s amiss. If you believe you may have a blood clot, discuss signs and symptoms with your physician. Your life may depend on it.