Blood clots occur frequently, and when they do happen, it’s often in the legs. Our blood works overtime constantly flowing through your body your entire life, yet it must shut off quickly if you get an injury or cut.

Blood clots are vital to saving us from bleeding to death when we are injured. However, they also form for no necessary reason. This can cause a stroke, heart attack, or other serious health problem. If the clot breaks off and flows through your lungs and heart, it may get lodged somewhere else preventing the flow of blood.

If you think you have a blood clot, you should immediately contact a physician.

Recommended Dallas-Fort Worth Blood Clot Doctors

Vascular Surgery

Arash Shirvani, MD

Dr. Shirvani is a vascular surgery doctor serving the DFW metroplex. If you are having any pain or issues related to your veins or arteries contact his office for a consultation.

The clotting process starts whenever free-flowing blood contacts certain substances on the walls of the blood vessels or your skin. This usually means that the vessels or skin are broken. Cholesterol plaques that form within the arteries also contain these substances.

When a plaque opens, the clotting process begins. Strokes and heart attacks often happen when one of these plaques breaks open in the brain or heart.

When your blood does not flow correctly, blood clots can form. Platelets are even more likely to clot together if the blood starts pooling in your heart or blood vessels. Deep vein thrombosis and atrial fibrillation are two vascular problems where slow-moving blood causes problems with clotting.

The Life Cycle of a Blood Clot

  1. First, the platelets create a plug. These are activated by specific triggers that a blood vessel releases when it is damaged. The platelets stick to each other and the walls in the injured area to change shape forming a plug that fits into the broken space to stop the release of blood. Platelets also release chemicals that attract other cells and additional platelets for the next step in the process.
  2. Next, the blood clot grows. Clotting factors, proteins in the blood, communicate with each other to induce a quick chain reaction. In the end, this reaction results in a dissolved substance within your blood changing into long strings of fibrin. These strands become tangled with the platelets to produce a net that catches more cells and platelets to strengthen the clot.
  3. Other reactions signal the growth to stop. Other proteins in the blood offset the clotting factors so that the clot does not grower larger than it should.
  4. It eventually breaks down in the body. As the tissue that is damaged begins to heal, the clot is not necessary anymore. The fibrin dissolves, and your blood takes the clot cells and platelets back in.

Different Kinds of Blood Clots

Blood clots that form in arteries are known as arterial clots. They cause immediate symptoms and need emergency treatment. These symptoms are paralysis of any body parts or severe pain. Clots occurring in a vein are called venous clots. They tend to build up slowly over an extended period of time.

These clots may often be life-threatening, and the most serious kind is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Every year around 300,000 cases of DVT occur in the United States.

The symptoms of blood clots in these areas are pain, swelling, reddish discoloration, tenderness, and a warm sensation. The symptoms depend on the clot’s size. You may have no symptoms or minor swelling with little pain.

A large clot may make your whole leg swell and cause intense pain. It is more likely that you have a blood clot if the symptoms occur in one leg or arm as blood clots in both the legs and arms are not common.

Blood clots located in the heart cause heart attacks but occur less frequently. A clot here may cause shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or your chest may feel heavy or hurt.

Abdominal blood clots also occur, though not as frequently as those in the arms and legs. They may cause swelling or abdominal pain.

Strokes are blood clots in the brain. These clots can cause sudden and severe headaches, as well as problems, seeing or speaking.

Pulmonary embolisms are blood clots inside the lungs. Symptoms include chest pain, breathing problems, a quick heart rate, shortness of breath not associated with exercise, or coughing blood up.

Blood Clot Causes

There are many conditions and issues that cause blood clots to form when they are not supposed to. These include:

  • Factor V Leiden
  • Antiphospholipid syndrome
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Atherosclerosis/Arteriosclerosis
  • Family history of developing blood clots
  • Specific medicines such as hormone therapies or oral contraceptives
  • Obesity
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Prolong bedrest or sitting
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Surgery
  • Pregnancy
  • Stroke
  • Polycythemia
  • Smoking
  • Pulmonary embolism

Self-care treatment for Blood Clots

You can help reduce your risk for blood clots by following these tips:

  • Move- After periods of bed rest or surgery, make sure you get up and begin moving as soon as possible.
  • Avoid sitting for a long time- If you take long car-trips, stop often to get out and walk around. For frequent airline travel, stand up and walk up and down the aisle periodically.
  • Make changes to your lifestyle- Quit smoking, take measures to lower your blood pressure, exercise often, and lose weight.
  • When traveling, drink adequate amounts of fluid- Dehydration is often associated with the formation of blood clots.

Seek care from a Blood Clot Doctor

You should seek immediate emergency care if you have:

  • A rapid heartbeat
  • A cough producing bloody sputum
  • Painful or difficult breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Pain that extends from your back, jaw, arm, or shoulder
  • Numbness or weakness that occurs suddenly in your legs, arms, or face
  • Sudden difficulty understanding speech or speaking

If you develop redness, pain, or swelling in your leg or arm, consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Medications used to affect the Clotting Process

Some drugs interrupt the signaling process so that platelets cannot stick together. These include:

  • Plavix (Clopidogrel)
  • Persantine (Dipyridamole)
  • Ticlid (Ticlopidine)
  • Brilinta (Ticagrelor)
  • Effient (Prasugrel)
  • Aspirin

There are also blood thinners, medicines that prevent the proteins in the clotting process from working correctly or make it difficult for the body to produce clotting factors. These include:

  • Coumadin (Warfarin)
  • Eliquis (Apixaban)
  • Xarelto (Rivaroxaban)
  • Pradaxa (Dabigatran)
  • Savaysa (Edoxaban)
  • Heparin

Some drugs dissolve clots by breaking down fibrin strands such as tenecteplase, alteplase, and streptokinase. Physicians often prescribe these drugs to treat strokes or heart attacks.