Clotting is an important process that prevents you from losing too much blood if you cut or otherwise injure yourself. The platelets in the blood adhere to the edges of the cut and release chemicals that attract even more platelets to the scene, forming an aggregate that changes the liquid to a gel-like or semisolid state, thereby plugging the hole. Vitamin K also plays a role.
Clots, though, aren’t always a good thing. Sometimes a clot forms in veins deep within your body, and it won’t always dissolve on its own. If the clot remains immobile, it’s generally harmless. However, there’s a risk that it could break free and travel elsewhere in your body, quickly escalating into a life-threatening situation.
At Dallas Vein Institute in Dallas, Texas, double board-certified vascular and interventional radiologist Dr. Dev Batra has dedicated his life to diagnosing and treating vein problems. He also understands how important it is that his patients learn how to recognize the signs of a blood clot, so they can seek medical help in a timely fashion. Here’s what he wants you to know.
Your circulatory system contains vessels known as arteries and veins. Arteries transport oxygenated blood away from your heart to your tissues, and veins transport deoxygenated blood from your tissues back to your heart. Clots can form anywhere within the system.
When the clot forms in an artery, it’s referred to as an arterial clot, and it can affect the ability of oxygen to reach the tissues. Symptoms include severe pain and/or paralysis of body parts, and it can also lead to a heart attack or stroke. Symptoms appear immediately after the clot forms, and you need to get emergency medical treatment.
When a clot forms in a vein, it’s called a venous clot. This type builds up more slowly than arterial clots, and while it may be stable for a time, it still can be life-threatening.
The most common type of venous clot is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The clot forms in one of the major veins deep inside your legs, pelvis, or arms and can break off, traveling to the heart, lungs, or brain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that DVT kills about 100,000 Americans every year.
The symptoms of a blood clot depend on where in the body it forms or travels to. Here are the five primary areas and the signs a blood clot produces:
The most common places for blood clots to form are in your lower leg or your arm. The symptoms you have depends on the clot’s size: you may have no symptoms at all, minor swelling in the limb, or if the clot is large, major swelling with extensive pain.
The most common symptoms include:
The National Blood Clot Alliance indicates that the pain from this type of blood clot can be similar to the sensation of a pulled muscle.
A blood clot that breaks off and travels to the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). These clots can impair breathing. Symptoms of a PE include:
The heart is less commonplace for a blood clot to form, but it’s definitely possible. Such a clot causes a heart attack.
A blood clot in the abdomen causes severe abdominal pain and swelling. However, these symptoms are similar to those of a stomach virus or food poisoning, so you should definitely see a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis.
A blood clot in the brain is referred to as a stroke. Because it cuts off necessary oxygen and nutrients, the clot can cause a sudden, severe headache, difficulty speaking, or difficulty seeing. This is a life-threatening emergency, so get to the hospital right away.
Typical treatments for blood clots include:
The best defense against blood clots is educating yourself on the signs and symptoms. If you suspect you’re having clot symptoms or vein problems, contact our experts at Dallas Vein Institute, by phone at 972-646-8346, or by scheduling an appointment online.