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Blood Clots: Everything you should know

Blood Clots: Everything you should know

Blood clots are known to cause a whole range of uncomfortable symptoms. They are a particularly fatal danger after a patient has undergone surgery. Blood clots can cause paralysis, heart attacks, strokes and other scary conditions.

Blood clots can be stationary or can move through the bloodstream. There are also many names for the different effects blood clots cause on the body and the type of blood clots you can fall victim to.
There are medications that can assist in breaking up blood clots, as well as exercises, clothing and dietary changes that can prevent them. 

Blood clots are also a healthy, natural response of the body to assist with injury.

What is a blood clot?

By definition, a blood clot is the final product of the blood coagulation step in haemostasis (a process to prevent and stop bleeding). There are two components in a blood clot: aggregated platelets and red blood cells that form a plug, and a mesh of cross-linked fibrin protein.

A blood clot is a solid mass of blood. The blood in your body is needed for two things: it flows through the body, carrying nutrients to the various organs and limbs and clot when there is a cut or injury to avoid bleeding out. When these two functions combine, the results can be fatal. 

A blood clot that moves through the body is called an embolism, and a stationery blood clot is called a thrombus. 

Blood clots form by going through a series of chemical reactions in the blood. According to WebMD, particles in the blood called platelets are “turned on” by triggers that are released when a blood vessel gets damaged. These platelets stick to the walls in the area and to each other, changing shape to form a plug that fills in the broken part to stop blood from leaking out.

As the plug grows, proteins called clotting factors signal each other to cause a rapid chain reaction. It ends with a dissolved substance in your blood that turns into long strands of fibrin. These get tangled up with the platelets in the plug to create a net that traps even more platelets and cells. This means that the clot is growing and becoming more difficult to break apart. At this point, it starts to pose a risk to your health. 

Other proteins offset extra clotting-factor proteins so that the clot does not spread further than it needs to.

Then, once the broken area of the body is healed, the body will start to naturally break the clot down. The tough fibrin strands dissolve, and your blood absorbs the platelets and cells of the clot.

When the last step doesn’t happen, you can get very, very ill. 

Why are blood clots dangerous?

A blood clot can end up in the lungs, heart, brain or limbs if it breaks away and moves through the bloodstream, says Healthline. This can lead to serious complications. The clot can disrupt the blood flow to important organs. A blood clot that goes to the heart will cause a heart attack. A blood clot that goes into the brain will cause a stroke. 

Other complications of a blood clot

Pulmonary embolisms are blood clots that lodge in a lung, causing a lack of oxygen. Some blood clots can lodge in the kidneys and cause damage, even kidney failure. Blood clots also form during pregnancy and can cause complications like premature labour, miscarriage and maternal death.

According to Healthline, deep vein thrombosis is another complication. This is what happens when a clot forms in a deep vein in an arm or leg. These can cause symptoms at the site, but can also lead to more serious complications if clots break away and travel to the lungs.

Who is at risk of Blood Clots?

People who are most likely to suffer from blood clots usually have underlying conditions, or take medications that affect the blood. 

Those most susceptible include women who are taking oral contraceptives or are pregnant or those who have undergone surgery. Also, people who are immobile for long periods of time, or are wheelchair bound, bedridden or in recovery. The elderly, cancer patients and diabetics are also high-risk people.

People who smoke regularly or drink excessive alcohol are also at risk. 

Another medical procedure that can leave a patient susceptible to clotting is  the insertion of central, intravenous lines and anything that requires piercing through the skin and veins. 

Affinity Health

Staying healthy, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic is very important. If you notice any of the above signs, contact your doctor immediately. Having medical insurance, especially in such unprecedented times, cannot only save you cash, but offer you peace of mind. Visit the Affinity Health website to see which options fit your lifestyle and budget.