Are You at Risk for Blood Clot?

Depending on where they appear, clots can cause deep vein thrombosis in the legs, strokes, heart attacks, and pulmonary embolisms. And although blood clotting is necessary to help stop bleeding after an injury, sometimes they can do more harm than good. A blood clot is a mass formed by platelets and fibrin in the blood to stop bleeding. However, with a blood clot disorder, blood clots may form in areas of the body that are abnormal.

When this happens, they become dangerous because blood clots can block a vein or artery. This increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, miscarriages, and pulmonary embolisms.  People may not realize that they have a clotting disorder until after they have a clot.  Below are some common causes of abnormal blood clots.

The causes of blood clots may include:

·         Inherited blood clotting disorders: If other members of your family have blood clots, pulmonary emboli, or have had strokes, then you are more likely to.  About 5 to 8 percent of people in the U.S. have an inherited blood clotting disorder.

·         Cancer medications: some chemotherapies alter the coagulation, or clotting system within the body. In some cases they make the body form blood clots more easily than normal. 

·         Surgery: Surgical intervention increases your risk for abnormal blood clots in a few ways.  In surgery there is always a risk of blood vessels being damaged, and this creates an opportunity for increased clotting within the body.  Similarly, an extensive surgery can mean a prolonged bed stay. See below how this can also increase your risk for clotting. 

·         Prolonged immobility: If you are on bed-rest, such as during a prolonged hospitalization, you become particularly at risk for blood clots in the legs. This happens because instead of the blood flowing through the legs through muscle contraction back to the heart, it pools for long periods of time staying stagnant.  This reduced flow increases the chance of clots forming.  On a smaller scale, even sitting for extended periods of time whether in the car, at work or in long flights, there is an increased risk of clotting as well.

·         Pregnancy: Pregnancy can alter the bleeding and clotting system proteins, increasing the risk of clot formation in pregnant women.  Moreover, the growing baby can put pressure on pelvic blood vessels and increase the risk of blood clots within the legs. 

·         Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.  This can reduce blood flow throughout the body, and increase the risk of blood clots.