Now and then we cut ourselves, either accidentally or intentionally due to various mental illnesses that often result in self-harm, which is now gaining awareness in both societies and the medical world. Our skin forms a delicate layer and if we lose too much blood via a cut, it could lead to unconsciousness and inevitably, death. However, certain clotting mechanisms occur whenever we cut ourselves that prevent that tragic scenario from coming to reality. Certain proteins and cell fragments such as fibrin and platelets, respectively, carry out the process of coagulation, which causes our blood to solidify and form a clot at the site of the cut, which eventually heals, over time. An anti-clotting substance known as heparin prevents such blood clots forming within our arteries, veins or capillaries, because these may block the flow of blood and be fatal.
Consequences and Symptoms of Blood Clots
It is imperative that every one of us watches out for our health. It is almost vital that we can recognize different types of blood clots and their symptoms so we can get the necessary medical attention. Blood clots are fatal, as already stated before. However, they also cause a condition known as hypoxia and cause serious damage to our organs.
Hypoxia is a lack of Oxygen within the body. Oxygen is required to carry out respiration that ensures normal functioning of the body. Blood clots prevent the normal flow of blood, and not all RBCs (Red Blood Cells) that carry oxygen can reach body cells. It results in an inadequate supply of oxygen to body tissues that can have serious consequences.
Initial symptoms include nausea, fatigue, numbness, blueness of the skin where a blood clot has formed, or all over the body, in the case of severe hypoxia. Severe hypoxia results in breathlessness, pallor, reduced level of consciousness, hallucinations, behavioral changes such as aggression, severe headaches and migraines, disorientation, confusion and pulmonary hypertension. Chronic hypoxia results in a slow heart rate, cyanosis (bluish and purplish discoloration of the skin or mucous membranes), and low blood pressure, eventually leading to death. Cyanosis is the most common symptom of hypoxia caused by (an) internal blood clot(s).
Type of Local Blood Clots
Blood Clot(s) in the Legs and Arms
Blood clots may form in the limbs due to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which is dangerous as the clot can reach the heart and lungs. Blood clots formed in the limbs are characterized by the whole leg or arm being swollen, itching in the limb, the limb becoming excessively warm, pallor, the limb appearing red or blue. Pain in the affected limb or tenderness often described as a cramp or ‘Charley Horse,’ difficulty in breathing, angina (chest pain), coughing up blood, and dizziness. In certain cases, if the blood clot is left untreated, it may cause fainting, fever, fatigue, distended veins, and an increased heart rate.
DVT may occur in the limbs due to a lack of movement or a family history of blood clots. Sitting for too long, for example during a flight or a long train journey may result in a lack of movement, which may cause this type of blood clot.
Blood Clot(s) in the Heart
Sometimes, a blood clot may form directly in the blood vessels of the heart, or a blood clot may travel to the heart from where it formed, for example from the limbs. A blood clot in the heart is extremely dangerous as it almost always leads to a heart attack. Symptoms of a blood clot in the heart vessels include difficulty in breathing, severe pain in the arms, angina, and perspiration. If the clot does eventually lead to a heart attack, it can be fatal. Dr. Merle Myerson, director of the cardiovascular disease prevention program at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, co-authored a study on the relationship between the death rate and heart attacks in the U.S. She found out that 5.3% of Americans died in 1987 due to heart attacks while 3.8% died due to the same cause in 2002.
H5: Blood Clot(s) in the Lungs
A blood clot may sometimes form in the blood vessels within the lungs, although this is rare. It results in a condition known as pulmonary embolism, which is the blockage of an artery in the lungs due to a substance (in this case, a blood clot) that has traveled through the bloodstream, from somewhere else in the body. About 90% of emboli are from proximal leg DVTs. This condition is characterized by shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing, angina, excessive coughing, perspiration, and dizziness. The most common way to diagnose this condition is through probability testing, via a prediction rule that Philip Steven Wells developed in 1995. Blood tests, CT scanning, and imaging are also used to detect blood clots in the lungs.
H6: Blood Clot(s) in the Brain
Blood clots can also form in blood vessels within the brain. However, most of these are blood clots that have traveled from elsewhere in the body, via the blood. When they reach the brain, they cause a stroke. A stroke may be fatal and constitutes impaired vision, slurred speech, seizures and a general weakness of the entire body.
Other symptoms include paralysis, recurring headaches, depression, confusion, disorientation, poor muscular coordination, rupture of veins, increased heart beat and a condition known as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), which is a blockage of blood flow to the brain. TIA may cause Aphasia (difficulty speaking), Hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body) and Paresthesia (numbness or tingling).
H7: Blood Clot(s) in the Abdomen
Blood clots mostly form in the abdomen due to a condition is known as ‘Diverticulitis’ or due to various diseases of the liver. Diverticulitis is a digestive disease in which the pouches within the large bowel wall become inflamed. Above is pictured the disease within the colon of the large intestines. The use of contraceptive pills may cause blood-clot formation within this part of the body too.
Symptoms of blood clots within the abdomen include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, fever, blood in stool, abdominal pain, which worsens after eating and feeling bloated. Diverticulitis is the leading cause of blood clot formation in the abdomen, and it is a rising problem in the West. In the Western world, about 35% of people have the condition while it affects less than 1% of the population in rural Africa. In 2003 alone, the condition took 13,000 lives, in Europe, whereas the cost in the U.S about Diverticulitis is $2.4 billion per annum, as of 2013.
H8: Blood Clot(s) in the Kidneys
Blood clot formation in the kidneys is referred to as Renal Vein Thrombosis (RVT). It is uncommon and occurs in rare cases. It is usually caused by tumors in the kidneys, trauma to the back or abdomen, dehydration (mostly in infants), pregnancy, scar formation due to pressure on the renal vein, Hypercoagulability disorders (blood clotting disorders), Sickle Cell Anemia and diabetes. Symptoms of blood clots in the kidneys include nausea and vomiting, fever, blood in the urine, high blood pressure, sudden and severe leg swelling, breathing difficulties and pain in the side of the abdomen, legs or thighs.
H9: Causes of Blood Clots
Blood clots may form due to several factors ranging from an improper diet consisting of fatty substances, leading to obesity, to activities that many people find pleasurable, such as smoking. Some people have a family history of blood clots, i.e., hereditary blood-clotting disorders while others may even be exposed to the fatality during pregnancy, prolonged bed rest, or heart failure. Certain drugs such as oral contraceptives, hormone therapy medicines, and breast cancer medications may also contribute to blood-clot formation within the blood vessels.
Other conditions and illnesses that may result in internal blood-clot formation include Antiphospholipid Syndrome (an autoimmune disorder causing pregnancy-related complications), Arteriosclerosis, Factor V Leiden, heart arrhythmias, Hiatal hernia, Peripheral artery disease, Polycythemia Vera.
Pulmonary embolism, high blood pressure, diabetes, local trauma or injury, stroke and even during certain surgical procedures, especially those in which casts or splints are placed and the patient is unable to move his affected body part, freely.
* (Preeclampsia is a disorder of pregnancy characterized by the onset of high blood pressure and often a significant amount of protein in the urine; Hernia is the abnormal exit of tissue or an organ through the wall of the cavity in which it normally exists).
H10: Precautionary measures and Treatment
It is better to keep the ship from sinking rather than trying to save it while it sinks. We should avoid fatty substances that increase our cholesterol levels and not only make us obese but also increase the chances of blood clots forming in various parts of our body which may lead to strokes, heart attacks, etc. Smoking should also be avoided. It not only causes blood coagulation within the body, but it also poses a range of other health risks such as cancers, lung diseases such as Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema and ‘Smoker’s Cough.’
Contraceptive pills should be taken if they’re really necessary and if they are taken, the prescribed course should be followed, but they should be best avoided. Other contraceptive measures such as condoms could be used. Hereditary diseases are obviously impossible to avoid, but we should still do all we can to keep ourselves healthy and fit.
Regular exercise and a balanced diet help prevent blood clotting related diseases. Smoking is a menace that has been ruining people’s lives, and it should also be avoided. The treatments for strokes, heart attacks and other conditions caused by blood-clot formation aren’t very precise, and it is better that we prevent these as much as much as we can. However, if you do experience any of the signs and symptoms associated with these six types of blood clots as well as Hypoxia, be sure to get immediate medical attention, for your life is more precious than anything else in the world.