Blood clots get a bad rap; that’s because clotting is necessary to stop bleeding. In fact, those who take blood thinners or whose clotting factors are compromised run the risk of developing painful and unsightly bruises or bleeding extensively after even the smallest nick or injury. However, blood clots can also be extremely dangerous, especially when they are the result of blood pooling in your body when it doesn’t need it to. When this happens, you run the risk of the clot traveling to a vital organ, like the brain or lungs, which can result in debilitating injury or death. Likewise, slow-moving blood can result in atrial fibrillation or deep vein thrombosis, both of which are deadly conditions. If you aren’t aware of or underestimate the dangers of blood clots, here’s some important information that could save your life – or the life of someone you love.
Kinds of Blood Clots
A blood clot can form in any part of your body, but are most common in your legs, arms, and groin area. The most two common kinds of blood clots are thrombus and embolus.
- Thrombus clots are stationary, meaning that they stay put, usually deep inside the body. Because they don’t move, they permit the build-up of blood that blocks the flow to other parts of the body. Those who experience deep vein thrombosis have thrombus clots. Heart attacks may occur when blood is restricted from pumping through the heart. The same may be said of strokes, when blood flow is restricted to the brain. Not always painful but unsightly, varicose veins are a superficial form of thrombus clots.
- Embolus clots gather or pool blood, then break loose and travel to other parts of the body, causing embolisms. The most common kinds of embolisms include pulmonary (when the blood clot travels to the lungs) and brain embolisms.
Diagnosing Blood Clots
There are a number of signs of blood clots that would necessitate medical attention at the earliest opportunity; these symptoms include swelling or soreness in your arms or legs, a warm spot on the leg, reddening skin, coughing, low-grade fevers, skin sores and/or skin discoloration. Should you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor for a diagnosis.
Blood clots are diagnosed using blood tests, ultrasound, V/Q scans, CT or MRI scans, as well as angiography or echocardiography, depending on the location of the symptoms or confirmed clot. Other diagnostic tools – such as X-rays – may be used to rule out other conditions. The correct diagnosis is crucial to ensure the most effective form of treatment for the blood clot.
Preventing Blood Clots
While some clots may lay dormant and undiagnosed for years, even decades, there are still ways to reduce your risk of developing clots. They include maintaining a healthy lifestyle – that includes avoiding fatty and processed foods, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Avoiding or quitting smoking is essential; the same is true with alcohol. Avoid sitting for too long – stretch your legs at work and on long trips. If you must sit, don’t cross your legs. If you are diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis, be sure to wear supportive hose and take your medications before traveling. For those at risk of blood clots, your doctor may prescribe blood thinners or recommend a regimen that includes low-dose or baby aspirin.
Blood Clot-related Emergencies
Too often, the symptoms of having a blood clot only are realized when they are causing a life-threatening reaction. If you are experiencing any stroke-like symptoms or conditions that resemble a heart attack, stroke or aneurism, chances are it is a result of a blood clot. Seek emergency medical care immediately if you are experiencing chest pain, increased heart rate, a feeling of “swooshing” in the head or lightheadedness, pain in the arm or tightness in the chest, or blacking out. When it comes to strokes, heart attacks or any other life-threatening illness, time is of the essence. Act quickly.
Diagnostic Services in South Carolina
At risk for blood clots? Our team at SC Internal Medicine Associates & Rehabilitation offers comprehensive on-site diagnostic services so you can get started on treatment right away. If you have any questions about any of our services, call (803) 749-1111 or request an appointment online.