Blood clots are clumps of blood that have changed from a liquid to a solid state. Blood clotting (also known as coagulation) is an important bodily function that prevents people from bleeding to death after a blood vessel has been injured. Typically, the blood clot will form a scab on the exterior portion of the body which will help to protect the wound and allow it to heal. However, blood clots are also able to form inside the body.
Since the body’s heart is constantly pumping and flowing blood throughout the body, blood is usually unable to form clots since it is never fully stationary. However, blood clots are sometimes still able to form within the body even without a catalyst such as injury. If a person’s blood is slowed down too much, for whatever reason, a person may develop a blood clot. Sometimes these clots go unnoticed and are reabsorbed by the body, however, in some cases the clots will remain and cause serious medical problems.1
Stationary blood clots that form within the interior veins of the body is known as a thrombus. This type of clot can interfere with blood flow and cause a serious health conditions such as heart attack or stroke. A clot that is lodged in a vein is serious not only because it can damage the structure of the veins themselves but also because it can eventually travel from one location in the body to another. This activity is called an embolus or embolism.
Types of Blood Clots
Listed below are the most common types of blood clots that can be acquired. The symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatments provided are the most common and does not represent all possible situations. Always consult a doctor if you believe you have a clot.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
A DVT is the formation of a blood clot in a vein, usually deep within the muscles of the calf, thigh, or hip.
- Symptoms: Swelling, pain, tenderness, discoloration (usually a reddish looking rash)
- Causes: Immobility, obesity, medications (e.g. birth control), smoking, injury, surgery, pregnancy, and genetics.
- Diagnosis: Ultrasound. Usually either a Duplex or Doppler Study
- Treatment: Blood thinners (e.g. Warfarin), catheter, vein filter, surgery
Pulmonary Embolism (PE)
A Pulmonary Embolism is a blockage of a main artery in the lung. This is a serious medical condition that results in thousands of deaths each year.
- Symptoms: Cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, sweating, anxiety, fainting, and shock.
- Causes: DVT that has traveled to the lung.
- Diagnosis: Chest x-ray, ultrasound, cat scan, MRI
- Treatment: Blood thinners (e.g. Coumadin), catheter, vein filter, surgery
Superficial Venous Thrombophlebitis (SVT)
SVTs are small clots that form within the body but not inside any deep vein. These usually represent themselves as varicose veins and do not normally originate or develop into a more serious DVT or embolism.
- Symptoms: Visibly bulging veins, pain, swelling, tenderness
- Causes: Pregnancy, infection, genetics, immobility, birth control, DVT
- Diagnosis: Ultrasound
- Treatment: Blood thinners, anti-inflammatory drugs, and time
Citations (view all)
- 1. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, "Pulmonary Embolism." Accessed April 23, 2012. http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/lung_diseases/lung/embolism/Pages/index.aspx.