Heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism are three medical emergencies that affect different parts of the body, but blood clot is the common cause among these.
According to the National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA), a blood clot kills approximately one person every six minutes. Amita Avadhani, Ph.D., associate professor, Advance Practice Division, School of Nursing, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, tells Health that they are so dangerous because they can impede or block blood flow to vital organs. “The brain, lungs, and heart are vital organs that require oxygen to function. After four minutes without oxygen, brain cells begin to die, causing permanent damage to organs and their functionality as time passes.”
However, not all blood clots are created equal. Dr. Elad I. Levy, professor, and chair of neurosurgery at the University at Buffalo tells Health that blood clots can range from mildly symptomatic and treatable to fatal.
Although your risk of developing a blood clot is relatively low, they can and do occur. Here is information about blood clots and their symptoms.
What is a Blood Clot Exactly?
Blood is typically a liquid, but a blood clot is a gel-like mass of blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. Certain situations, such as an injury or a cut, can benefit from blood clots, which can help plug the injured blood vessel and stop the bleeding.
However, blood clots can form within the body for no apparent reason and block blood vessels; this condition is known as thrombosis. These can travel to your lungs, brain, or heart, causing serious and sometimes fatal complications such as pulmonary embolism, stroke, or heart attack (a blood clot in the heart).
What Types of Blood Clots Are There?
In order for blood to reach all parts of your body, from your head to your toes, you have a circulatory system composed of blood vessels known as veins and arteries. (Arteries transport oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body, whereas veins, return oxygen-depleted blood to the heart for reoxygenation.)
Due to the fact that there are two types of blood vessels, there are also two types of blood clots: arterial clots, which form in the arteries, and venous clots, which form in the veins.
Blood clots can also be classified according to their mobility, or whether they are mobile. According to MedlinePlus, a thrombus is a blood clot that forms inside a vein or artery (these can also form in your heart). However, a blood clot that breaks off and moves to another part of the body is referred to as an embolus (or the plural form, emboli).
1. Arterial Clot
This type of blood clot, known as an arterial embolism when the clot or thrombus originates elsewhere in the body, typically occurs in the legs and feet and disrupts blood flow to other parts of the body, according to the MedlinePlus website of the US National Library of Medicine. Depending on the size of the clot and the degree to which it obstructs blood flow, symptoms may appear quickly or gradually. According to MedlinePlus, you may exhibit no symptoms at all.
Symptoms of a leg or arm arterial clot or embolism include:
- A freezing arm or leg
- Reduced or absent pulse in the arm or leg
- The absence of arm or leg movement
- The ache in the affected region
- Tingling and numbness in the arm or leg
- Arm or leg hues that are very light
- Muscle weakness in the arms or legs
The longer an arterial clot obstructs blood flow, the more additional symptoms may develop:
- Skin blisters near the affected artery
- Skin flaking
- Skin erosion (ulcers)
- Necrosis is the death of tissues
If an arterial clot forms in an organ, the symptoms depend on which organ is affected. A clot that forms in the brain can cause a stroke, while a clot that forms in the heart can cause a heart attack. However, arterial clots can also occur in the kidneys, intestines, and eyes, although this is uncommon. In general, the following symptoms characterize arterial clots in organs:
- Discomfort in that area of the body
- A temporary reduction in organ function
2. Venous Clot
In a vein, a blood clot can form and grow over time. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the most serious form of a venous clot, according to the CDC. This condition occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, as opposed to more superficial veins that are closer to the body’s surface. Typically, these clots form in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, but they can also form in the arm.
The most severe complication of DVT occurs when a piece of the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, according to the CDC. There, it can cause a blockage known as pulmonary embolism (PE), halt blood flow to the lungs, and ultimately result in death. According to the CDC, DVTs do not cause heart attacks or strokes.
DVT symptoms may include:
- A reddening of the skin
Among the symptoms of PE are:
- Difficulty in respiration
- Abnormally rapid or irregular heart rate
- Pain or discomfort in the chest that typically worsens with deep breathing or coughing.
- Expelling blood
- Extremely low blood pressure, dizziness, or fainting
Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) is also a venous clot that forms in the brain’s venous sinuses. This clot, which was recently linked to a temporary halt on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after six women developed it, prevents blood from draining out of the brain, which can lead to blood leaking into the brain’s tissues.
Examples of CVST symptoms include:
- Impaired vision
- Symptoms of fainting or loss of consciousness
- Loss of control over the movement of a body part
When Should You Seek Medical Attention For a Blood Clot?
If you experience any symptoms of a blood clot, seek immediate medical attention. Anita Gorwara, MD, family medicine physician and medical director of urgent care at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, informs Health, “You need to be seen.” “Calling your doctor and waiting for a response is a waste of time. Go immediately to an urgent care facility, your primary care physician’s office, or the emergency room.“
Blood clots are time-sensitive. “After four minutes of lack of circulation, cells begin to die,” says Avadhani. When a person has a stroke, the risk of brain damage can be minimized or eliminated if the clot is promptly identified and treated.
Dr. Levy emphasizes the significance of not dismissing your symptoms. “Don’t assume it’s nothing if you’re uncertain,” he says. “Go get examined.”
- What home remedies do you know to stop blood clots?
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