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Blood clots usually form in response to an injury. When there is an external wound in the body, and blood starts flowing out, the body forms a clump of blood cells known as a blood clot around the wound. This ensures that loss of blood is minimal.
So, essentially a blood clot is a clump of blood cells trapped in a fine protein mesh.
However, sometimes, blood clots form inside the blood vessels in the absence of any external injury. (1) This is known as thrombosis.
It can occur within both arteries and veins, causing a narrowing of the blood vessel and limiting the flow of blood. (2) This can pave the way for various serious complications such as myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, and stroke.
The life-threatening implications of thrombosis make it the leading cause of death in developed countries. (2)
Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a blood clot gets stuck in the arteries that supply blood from the heart to the lungs. This clot forms elsewhere in the body, usually in the veins of the leg, and travels to the lungs.
The plugging of the pulmonary arteries by the blood clot limits the flow of oxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs and then to the rest of the body.
According to experts, pulmonary embolism does not have any characteristic symptoms but may cause shortness of breath, cough, pleuritic chest pain, and, in severe cases, fainting or cardiorespiratory arrest.
Signs and Symptoms of an Unnatural Blood Clot
Some of the signs and symptoms of an unusual blood clot are as follows.
1. Asymmetrical swelling
Asymmetrical swelling, especially in one of the legs, is a cardinal symptom of an unusual blood clot. Your legs will feel heavy as though there is a fluid buildup, making smooth movements difficult. (3)
There will be unusual warmth in the area around the blood clot. Accompanying symptoms include swelling and pain, but the clot can exist without either symptom as well. However, the area around the clot is most likely to be warm and tender upon touching. (3)
3. Tenderness and pain
The area around the clot will feel tender to the touch and there will be pain when pressed. Leg pain, especially in the mid-calf or mid-thigh region, is one of the symptoms of an unusual blood clot.
This pain will be acute when you are walking and will subside when you rest. This is an alarm, and you definitely need to seek medical help if you notice this symptom. (3)
If you have a blood clot, you may feel a sense of weakness in the thigh almost as if your legs are unable to carry the weight of your body. This may be accompanied by dizziness and weakness, which subside upon taking some rest and consuming fluids. (4)
5. Discolored flaky skin
Very often, the area around the clot is dark blue in color. This is accompanied by dry flaky skin that often itches badly. Do not scratch the affected part since this may further aggravate the condition.
If a blood clot forms inside a vein within your limbs, the overlying skin will develop a bluish or reddish hue.
Meanwhile, blood clots in the vessels of your lungs can hamper the oxygen supply throughout the body, making your skin turn slightly pale, blue, and sweaty. (5)
6. Low-grade fever
A low-grade fever is a serious consequence and results when the blood clot detaches itself and travels to the lungs causing “pulmonary embolism.” This causes blockage of the pulmonary artery or any of the blood vessels supplying the lungs, resulting in low-grade fever.
Pulmonary embolism can result in sudden death. (6)
7. Excessive sweating
Nightsweats and sweating with even the least exertion are common signs of pulmonary embolism, and it is better to consult your doctor if you experience it. (6)
8. Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath is another complication of pulmonary embolism resulting from the clot settling in the lungs and blocking not only the blood flow but also the airflow, leading to labored breathing. (6)
9. Chest pain
A blood clot that settles in the lungs or heart causes difficulty in breathing, leading to chest pain. (7)
A clot that settles in the lungs causes strain and difficulty in breathing. This, in turn, irritates the lungs, leading to coughing fits. The coughing may sometimes be accompanied by the expectoration of blood. (3)
Causes of Thrombosis
Thrombosis is the formation of blood clots within a blood vessel. A variety of reasons can lead to thrombus formation and these include:
- Damage to the inner lining of the wall of the blood vessel due to trauma or surgery, causing blood cells to aggregate at the site of damage, leading to thrombus formation
- Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Certain cancers such as lymphomas
- Hormone therapy such as being on a birth control pill
- Genetic factors (4)
How Do You Prevent Blood Clots Naturally?
Below is a list of things to be done and things to be avoided to reduce the risk of blood clots.
- Avoid a sedentary lifestyle and try to be active. Regular exercise and taking regular walks can help in avoiding the risk of blood clots.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water since you are more likely to get a clot if you’re dehydrated.
- Maintain an ideal weight, and try to lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Wear flight stockings or flight socks to stimulate blood flow in the legs.
- Quit smoking.
- Limit your alcohol intake to reduce the risk of dehydration.
- Do not sit or stand in the same position for prolonged periods. Keep moving around to improve blood flow throughout the body.
Most-Asked Questions About Blood Clots
Can blood clots go away on their own?
The body naturally breaks down and absorbs blood clots. Thus, blood clots do go away on their own over weeks to months.
But this depends on the location of the blood clot. Sometimes, it can be dangerous and you may need treatment.
When should I go to a hospital for treatment of a blood clot?
Seek medical help if you experience shortness of breath and coughing that produces bloody sputum.
Prompt treatment can resolve thrombosis quickly by restoring normal blood flow and help you avoid dangerous complications like stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism.
But if the underlying cause of the condition is chronic, like blood disorders that you are born with, then it will keep coming back and persist throughout your life.
If you have risk factors for thrombosis, consult a doctor about ways to avoid clot formation. This usually includes taking anti-hypertensive, cholesterol-lowering, or blood-thinning medication, consuming a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and giving up tobacco use.