A Closer Look At Blood Clots

This week I got to experience something I experienced so many times when I was working as an RN. I can't even begin to count the number of patient I cared for who had a blood clot of one kind or another. I never thought it was something I would experience on the side, for myself. Well, now I am. Yesterday, I was diagnosed with two blood clots (DVT's, Deep Vein Thrombosis) in my leg. As I was brushing up on DVT's, I thought I would share the information with you all as I am sure that one of you has had or will have a blood clot as some point. So let's jump right on in.

What is a blood clot??

A blood clot is as a clump of blood that is no longer liquid, like you would think of blood, and has changed to a gel-like or semisolid state.

That being said clotting is a necessary process that our body does naturally that prevents us from losing too much blood in certain circumstances like if we get injured or cut.
Although, if a clot forms inside one of our veins, it doesn't always dissolve on its own. When this happens it can be a very dangerous and life-threatening situation.
A clot that is stuck and can't move generally isn't harmful. But most are not completely immobile thus being potentially dangerous. If a clot does break free and travels through your veins to your heart or lungs, it can actually get stuck and prevent blood flow which is a medical EMERGENCY.
It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control as Prevention that deep vein thrombosis along with blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism (PE)) affects up to 900,000 Americans each year. These blood clots kill nearly 100,000 Americans yearly.

Types of Blood Clots

The humans circulatory system is made up of different vessels called veins and arteries, which are responsible for transporting blood through the body. Blood clots can form in the veins or in the arteries.

If a clot forms in an artery it is just that an arterial clot. This kind of clot generally causes symptoms IMMEDIATELY and requires immediate treatment and often surgery. If you have an arterial clot it causes SEVERE pain and can causes paralysis of parts of the body depending on where the clot is. It can also cause a stroke or heart attack b

If a clot occurs in a vein it is called a venous clot. These clots may build up slowly over time, but they can still be life- threatening. The most dangerous kind of venous clot is know as a DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS.

A deep vein thrombosis is the name of a clot when it forms in one of the major veins, most commonly in the leg. But it can also happen in the arms, pelvis, lungs, or even the brain.

Knowing the most common symptoms and risk factors gives you the best shot at knowing what symptoms to seek medical attention for. If you think you have symptoms of a blood clot you need to seek medical attention, because there is no way to know if you have a blood clot without a medical evaluation

Let's take a look at signs and symptoms of clots.

Blood clots in the leg or arm

The most common location for a clot is the lower leg. That being said the symptoms of a clot in the arm have similar symptoms, and they can vary somewhat due to location of the clot:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Warm
  • Reddened area

The symptoms a person feels will depend on the size of the clot. That explains why some will have all symptoms notes above and some will have all the symptoms.

**In my case I only had a sore leg. It hurt ached and then felt like a really bad Charlie horse when I walked. I had no redness or warmth. So it would have been easy to over look.**

Blood clot in the lungs, or pulmonary embolism

If someone develops a blood clot that travels to the lung that is called a pulmonary embolism (P.E.). A P.E. has very distinct symptoms. The following are symptoms are what could be seen in someone with a pulmonary embolism:
  • Sudden shortness of breath that isn't related to any kind of exercise
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations, or rapid heart rate
  • Coughing up blood

Risk factors for have a blood clot

Like all conditions there are going to be risk factors that increase your chances for getting that specific condition. And that's no different with blood clots. So what let's look at the risk factors for developing a blood clot.

  • A recent, lengthy hospital stay
  • Major surgery
  • Age, over 65
  • Travel, especially lengthy trips wheee you are not able to get up and move around and are seated for four or more hours at a time.
  • Being in bedrest or being sedentary for long periods.
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Family history of blood clots
  • Smoking
  • Cancer
  • Certain birth control

I would have never thought I would have developed a blood clot. I didn't really have any of the risk factors. So when I woke up with the pain I just blamed it on one of the other pain causing conditions. But by the third day I decided it was time to contact the doctor. I'm glad I did because who knows what could have happened had I not. I always think of the patients I had who has the classic symptoms. But according to the CDC almost 50% of people with DVTs have no symptoms. So I am not all. So learn from me. If you feel like something is wrong go ahead and call your doctor. The worst they can do is run a blood test or and ultrasound and they be negative. But it's much better that they be negative than you never know and have something catastrophic happen.