Thrombosis (Blood Clots) - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Vascular Disorders

Thrombosis (Blood Clots)

The idea of having a blood clot is a scary proposition. We know that a blood clot can be devastating, and it’s also something that you can’t see, as if it’s lurking beneath the surface. In the interest of demystifying blood clots, here’s what you need to know.

Blood clots, also known by the medical term thrombosis, are semisolid masses of coagulated blood. Your blood needs to be able to clot to prevent serious bleeding when you get a little cut. However, sometimes clots can form for no reason inside your blood vessels, creating a blockage that can lead to dangerous health issues.

What Causes Blood Clots?

You can be susceptible to blood clots for a variety of reasons – if you’ve recently had surgery, if you’re over the age of 65, take hormones such as birth control, are obese, have had heart trouble or have a family history of blood clots.

Blood clots can also form if you’re immobile for a long period of time, causing the blood to pool in one spot in your body. This can happen to travelers on long trips, who may be stuck in the same position for hours and hours – leading to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), i.e., clots in the deep veins in your legs, arms or groin. This is one reason why it’s important to get up and move around if you’re on a long flight.

Complications from Blood Clots

When a blood clot forms, it creates inflammation in the artery or vein. You may notice symptoms such as swelling in the area of your arm and leg, the skin may feel warm to the touch and you may notice slight discoloration. If you notice symptoms like this, you don’t need to panic, but you should contact your doctor as soon as possible.

While blood clots in your arms or legs can be dangerous, the real danger comes from the possibility of them breaking loose and going to your heart, lungs or brain, preventing oxygen flow to these vital organs.

How to Prevent Blood Clots

To prevent this from happening, if you’re diagnosed with a blood clot your doctor will likely put you on blood thinners. Blood thinners have the side effect of potentially causing excessive bleeding, but they will dissolve the clot in time so that your blood flows freely.

You can prevent blood clots by monitoring your cholesterol – when cholesterol is high it effectively makes your blood “sludgy” so that it doesn’t flow as it should. You should also exercise regularly, eat less salt, and be sure you aren’t sitting at your desk at school of the office for more than an hour straight.

Treating Blood Clots

Thrombolysis, also known as thrombolytic therapy, is a treatment to improve blood flow and dissolve blood clots. Thrombolytic therapy can be delivered broadly using a peripheral IV or delivered directly to the clot using a catheter.