Blood Clots

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Blood Clot Symptoms

Symptoms of a blood clot in the venous system can include swelling of the affected area, warmth, redness, and pain. Venous blood clots occur most commonly in the arms and legs. Symptoms of an arterial blood clot result from a lack of or decrease in oxygen delivery to the tissues supplied by the involved artery. Pain in the involved area is often the first symptom.

Other symptoms can occur when arterial clots form in a particular area. For example, clots in the coronary arteries can cause chest pain and the accompanying symptoms of a heart attack.

Quick GuideDeep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Blood clot facts

  • A blood clot forms to try and repair damage to a blood vessel, either an artery or vein.
  • A blood clot is a gel-like mass formed by platelets and fibrin in the blood to stop bleeding.
  • When blood clots form inappropriately inside an artery or vein, they may cause significant problems because blood flow past the clot is decreased.
  • There are a variety of risk factors and illness that can lead to blood clot formation.
  • Causes of blood clots may include:
    • Heart conditions, including atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disturbance
    • Pregnancy
    • Prolonged immobility
    • Smoking
    • Certain medications, including birth control pills
    • Surgery, especially orthopedic procedures when casts or splints are placed and the patient is immobile
    • Inherited blood clotting disorders.
  • Symptoms of blood clots depend on their location in the body. Some blood clots produce no symptoms until they rupture or become dislocated and travel through the circulatory system to other sites. Symptoms of blood clots in specific body locations are as follows:
    • Symptoms of blood clots in legs (deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are pain, redness, and swelling
    • Symptoms of an arterial blood clot in the leg are painful and the leg is cool and pale.
    • Symptoms of blood clots in the lung (pulmonary embolus) are chest pain, shortness of breath, and rapid pulse and breathing
    • Symptoms of a stroke (blood clot in an artery of the brain) include loss of speech, vision, and weakness on one side of the body
    • Symptoms of a heart attack (blood clot in a coronary artery) are chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, indigestion, and sweating
    • Symptoms of mesenteric ischemia (blood clot to an artery that supplies the intestine) are abdominal pain, nausea, blood in stool
  • The diagnosis of a blood clot is suggested by the history and physical examination and is often confirmed with an imaging test. Depending upon the location of the blood clot and its cause, treatment may require surgery, anti-coagulation medications, or a combination of the two.
  • Prevention of blood clots involves attention to the risk factors for vascular disease and includes avoiding smoking and lifelong control of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • Serious complications may arise from blood clots, some are life threatening, and individuals should seek urgent or emergent medical care if they believe they may have a blood clot. This is especially true if signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke occur.
Reviewed on 4/27/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Chest. 2012;141(2_suppl):

Dzsheka MS, et al. Stroke and bleeding risk in atrial fibrillation. Clin Cardiol.2014, Oct, 37(10)

Medscape. Deep Vein Thrombosis and Thrombophlebitis.

Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011.

IMAGES:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.Universal Images Group / Getty Images

9.

10.iStock

11.

12.Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

13.

14.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Heart Health Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Blood Clots - Describe Your Experience

    Please describe your experience with blood clots.

    Post View 73 Comments
  • Blood Clots - Causes

    What was the cause of your blood clot?

    Post View 57 Comments
  • Blood Clots - Symptoms

    What symptoms did you have before you were diagnosed with a blood clot?

    Post View 10 Comments
  • Blood Clots - In Leg

    What were the complications of your blood clot?

    Post View 3 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors