Are you at risk for a blood clotting disorder?

A blood clotting disorder is when a person experiences abnormal blood clotting. This is also known as thrombophilia. With thrombophilia, there is an increased risk of thrombosis, or blood clots in the blood vessels. Blood clotting disorders are a serious condition because they increase the risk of blood clots developing within the body. Blood clots in the body can be dangerous and in some cases life-threatening.

blood clot

Blood clotting is necessary to help stop bleeding after an injury. 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.

The symptoms of a blood clotting disorder include a history of blood clots, high blood pressure, severe headaches, frequent miscarriages, pain and swelling in the legs, chest pain, changes in vision, difficulty speaking, dizziness, confusion, or shortness of breath.

Who gets blood clotting disorders? Blood clotting disorders can sometimes be inherited, such as with a condition called Factor V Leiden. About 5 to 8 percent of people in the U.S. have an inherited blood clotting disorder. Other medical conditions that may lead to blood clotting disorders such as lupus, bone marrow disorders, some cancers, protein C or S deficiencies, or antithrombin deficiency.

Depending on where they appear, clots can cause deep vein thrombosis in the legs, strokes, heart attacks, and pulmonary embolisms -- a life-threatening blood clot in the lungs. People may not realize that they have a clotting disorder until after they have a clot. Doctors may treat clotting disorders with drugs that thin the blood. Some people need ongoing treatment. Others only need treatment at specific times of higher risk, such as during pregnancy or when recovering from surgery. A person who currently has a blood clot needs emergency treatment. Treatment with blood-thinners make clots less likely to form.

Treatments for blood clotting disorders include taking medications that will break up the clot such as aspirin, blood thinner medications, such as heparin and warfarin (Coumadin), antithrombin factor and protein C. You may also be treated for underlying conditions or risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart problems. Surgery or other treatments may also be required.

Things that can make blood clots worse include obesity, smoking, heart disease, birth control pills, atherosclerosis, hormone replacement, dehydration, sitting still or lying down for a long time, pregnancy, diabetes, and HIV treatments.