The medical term for a blood clot is thrombus. Blood clotting is a normal process that the body uses to repair injured blood vessels. The damage may be obvious like a cut, or it can be microscopic and completely unnoticeable. However, there are times when a blood clot will form when it is not needed and this can have potentially significant consequences.
Venous thrombosis is when a blood clot occurs in a vein when a person is immobilized and muscles are not contracting to push blood back to the heart. Think of a slow moving river where over time plants and algae begin to grow on the banks. Gradually the small blood clots begin to form along the walls of the vein and eventually they can completely or partially block the vein. Blood clots can also form in an artery (called arterial thrombi) or in the heart.
Venous clots occur most commonly when the body stops moving because of hospitalization or sitting for a long period of time. In these instances the blood can become stagnant in veins and start to clot. Clotting may also occur because of genetics, making a person hypercoagulable and at greater risk for forming clots. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking are all risk factors for arterial clots.
Blood clots may cause life-threatening medical conditions including deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, arterial thrombus and atrial fibrillation. With a full patient history and examination, a doctor will be able to explore risk factors and diagnose blood clots. Treatment may require surgery and anti-coagulation medications. Prevention of blood clots involves attention to the risk factors for vascular disease.
If you think you may be at risk for blood clots, talk to your doctor and discuss symptoms and and prevention methods.