What Causes Blood Clots?

When you get a cut, platelets and coagulation proteins work together to stop the bleeding. A blood clot is formed to close off the wound, stop the bleeding, and allow the injury to heal.

This is an essential and lifesaving process. Unfortunately, sometimes blood clots can form inside your body in places where they may partially or completely block the flow of blood. 

When this occurs, it can deprive tissues and vital organs of oxygen and nutrients and cause dangerous health problems.

Symptoms and Types of Blood Clots

The symptoms of a dangerous blood clot will depend on where the clot is located.

  • If a blood clot forms in your leg, it’s called a deep vein thrombosis. This can cause pain and swelling in the affected leg.
  • If it forms in the arteries that supply blood to your heart, it’s called coronary artery thrombosis. This can cause a heart attack and symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, arm pain, jaw or neck pain, and indigestion.
  • If it forms in the arteries that supply blood to your brain, it can cause a stroke or a transient ischemic attack. This can cause symptoms like paralysis, numbness, weakness, or problems with vision, speech, or balance.
  • If a blood clot is in your lungs, it’s called a pulmonary embolism. This can cause shortness of breath and other serious breathing troubles.
  • If it forms in your intestines, it causes intestinal ischemia. This can cause abdominal pain and digestive problems.
  • If it’s in the kidneys, it can cause kidney failure or damage and cause decreased urination, bloody urine, and electrolyte imbalances.

Any of these conditions can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.

If you experience any unusual swelling, shortness of breath, chest pain, weakness, or severe abdominal pain, go to the emergency room or call 911.

Causes of Blood Clots

Blood clotting is a response to tissue damage. In cases where a clot forms in a blood vessel, the damage may be related to:

  • inflammation
  • injury
  • sedentary behavior
  • atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)

It might also occur due to abnormalities in the blood clotting process.

Risk factors for Harmful Blood Clots

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing a dangerous blood clot. These include:

  • obesity
  • chronic inflammation
  • smoking cigarettes
  • high blood pressure
  • high LDL cholesterol
  • low HDL cholesterol
  • unmanaged diabetes
  • abnormal heart rhythm
  • cancer
  • chemotherapy
  • estrogen therapy
  • pregnancy
  • major injuries
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • blood clotting disorders

If you are at risk for developing blood clots, your doctor may prescribe warfarin, aspirin, or another medication to help prevent clotting. They may also recommend lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and exercising regularly.