Blood clots are necessary for the healing of cuts and wounds but can present serious health problems when they get stuck in the circulatory system. A blot clot (also called a thrombus) involves the coagulation of blood through the group formation of tiny blood cells known as platelets.
Blood clots not functioning properly represent the improper triggering of the coagulation mechanism in undamaged (or only slightly damaged) blood vessels. Blood clots generally fall into two major categories: superficial phlebitis and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Superficial phlebitis entails the formation of blood clots in the small veins proximal to the surface of the skin. Symptoms include swelling, skin discoloration, and localized pain. This form of blood clotting is normally easily treatable with minimal complications.
Deep vein thrombosis, on the other hand, represents a potentially life-threatening blood clot formation occurring in a deep vein (most often in one of the legs). Clots lodged in the leg have the ability to travel up to the right side of the heart where they can then be lodged in a pulmonary artery, subsequently causing pulmonary embolism (the potentially fatal blockage of a pulmonary artery). Symptoms of DVT include pain and swelling in the affected area (often the legs), discoloration of the skin, feeling warm to the touch, and heavy aching. Given that the sooner a blood clot is treated, the better the chances of successful recovery, any appearance of symptoms warrants immediate medical attention.
Blood clots are caused by the presence of thrombogenic substances—such as tissue factor, the von Willebrand factor, and collagen—that exist in the skin or the walls of blood vessels and work to regulate the direction of blood flow. Blood clots causing bodily harm are often caused by the malfunctioning of these thrombogenic substances. Abnormal blood flow can cause the pooling of blood in vital organ areas of the body. For instance, excessive pooling of blood around the heart can cause both arrhythmia and blood clots to form. Other situations that may cause blood clots may include lack of mobility in bedridden patients, in which reduced blood flow can increase the risks of DVT.
Risk factors associated with blood clotting include previous episodes of DVT or pulmonary embolism, family medical history of blood clots, arrhythmia, pregnancy, and certain medications such as hormone therapy drugs.
Given the intricacies of the body’s blood circulation system, there exists a myriad of causes contributing to improper blood clotting. Pre-existing conditions associated with the formation of blood clots include heart attack or heart failure, peripheral artery disease (PAD), antiphospholipid syndrome, arteriosclerosis, Buerger’s disease, essential thrombocythemia, factor V Leiden, polycythemia vera, and stroke.
Unhealthy lifestyle choices also increase the chances of improper blood clotting. For instance, diets high in cholesterol tend to clog arteries and negatively impact blood flow. Reduced circulation, in turn, increases the chances of thrombogenic substances performing abnormally. Lack of physical activity, such as excessive sitting at work or when traveling, may also contribute to blood clotting via reduced circulation. Increased physical exercise not only improves circulatory functioning but reduces the chances of obesity, which is highly correlative to blood clots. Major surgery has also been known to be a contributing factor.
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