The blood circulates in the arteries and veins and is in a continuous movement, pumped from the heart to the organs of the body. Then, it returns to the heart, conditioned by the movement of the body. Without movement, the blood tends to stagnate and clot, thus forming blood clots.
Blood clots (thrombi) are part of a natural repair mechanism and are safe. However, there are situations when they can form when not needed and can have serious consequences.
What are the risk factors for blood clots formation?
The risk factors that can lead to blood clots formation vary by location.
At the level of veins, risk factors that can lead to the appearance of thrombi include:
- Prolonged immobilization in bed
- Some medicines, such as contraceptives
- Some congenital conditions
In the case of trumpets formed at the level of the arteries, the risk factors include:
- Cardiovascular disorders, such as atrial fibrillation or a heart rhythm disorder
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Local trauma
What are the signs and symptoms of the presence of blood clots?
If there are blood clots, then the blood will not return to the heart and the symptoms will appear because of this phenomenon. Blood clots most commonly occur in the hands and feet and may cause the following symptoms:
- Swelling of the limbs
- Local heat
Most of the time, these symptoms occur at the level of a single member (hand or foot) and over several hours.
Blood clots in the arteries prevent the pumping of blood into the affected area. Tissues that do not receive oxygen begin to die and thus, ischemia occurs. Thrombi formed in the arteries can be life-threatening and require medical help as quickly as possible.
Blood clots formed in the coronary arteries of the heart can cause myocardial infarction. Myocardial infarction is manifested by:
- Chest pain or pressure, radiating to the arm or neck
- Dyspnoea (sensation of "shortness of breath")
Blood clots formed in the arteries of the brain can cause ischemic stroke. Symptoms include inability to speak, loss of vision, weakness of one half of the body (right or left, depending on location) and facial paralysis.
Blood clots that involve the mesenteric arteries – blood vessels located in the abdomen and supplying the intestine with blood – can cause various digestive symptoms. These include severe abdominal pain, vomiting and blood in the stool.
Prevention of blood clots formation includes special attention to cardiovascular disease, blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as quitting smoking and exercising.
Complications of thrombus are life-threatening and require emergency medical help. If you experience the above symptoms, seek medical advice immediately, especially if the signs of myocardial infarction or stroke occur.