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Recognizing Symptoms of Blood Clots | Importance, Types, and Prevention

  1. Introduction

    Importance of Recognizing Symptoms of Blood Clots

    Recognizing the symptoms of blood clots is important due to several reasons. 

    • Prompt recognition allows early intervention that can be crucial in preventing severe life-threatening complications including pulmonary embolism, stroke, and heart attack.
    • Blood clots can cause long-term damage to the organs or tissues. For example, deep vein thrombosis can result in chronic swelling, pain, and even the development of post-thrombotic syndrome.
    • Identification of symptoms of blood clot help in identifying underlying condition and risk factors that may contribute to clot formation.
    • Recognizing awareness raises awareness among the general population about risk and potential consequences. The knowledge helps individuals in taking preventive measures, seek appropriate medical attention, and educate others on the importance of recognizing symptoms.

    Recognizing the symptoms of blood clots can be helpful in addressing underlying risk factors, leading to better health outcomes and improving the overall quality of life.

  2. Understanding Blood Clots

    1. What are Blood Clots and Their Types

      Blood clots are gel-like clumps that form when the blood coagulates. Naturally, they are the body’s defense mechanism to prevent excessive bleeding from injuries.

      Abnormally blood clots form inside the blood vessels, which can lead to serious complications.

      Blood clots are of two types: 

      • Arterial Clots: Arterial clots are thrombi and they form within arteries. These occur due to atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the build-up of fatty plaques. These plaques when ruptured can trigger clot formation. Arterial clots are associated with heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral arterial disease.
      • Venous Clots: Venous thrombi develop within veins, the blood vessels responsible for returning oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart. The most common types of venous clots are deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism affect 900,000 Americans every year.(4)

      Some clots may partially obstruct the blood flow while others can completely block the blood vessels. Also, the clots occur within the heart chambers in conditions such as atrial fibrillation or infective endocarditis.

    2. Causes and Risk Factors of Blood Clots

      There are several causes of blood clots and the cause usually depends on the type of clot it is. The blood clots that develop in the arteries are usually caused due to bits of plaques made of fat and mineral deposits that break and block the flow of the blood.

      Some of the common causes associated with blood clots include|:(5)

      Acquired Risk Factors of Blood Clots:

      • Major surgeries involving the abdomen, hips, and legs may increase the risk of blood clots. These can damage blood vessels and trigger clot formation.
      • Immobility for long periods including flights, bed rest, or immobilization after injury. This can lead to blood stasis and increase the risk of a clot.
      • Pregnancy and postpartum period may increase the risk of blood clots due to changes in hormone levels.
      • Hormonal therapies including oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk of blood clots.
      • Tobacco smoke damages the blood vessels and promotes inflammation and enhances blood coagulation, which may increase the likelihood of blood clots.

      Genetic or Inherited Risk Factors of Blood Clots

      • Genetic mutations increase the risk of abnormal blood clotting.(6)
      • Prothrombin gene mutations increase clotting factor levels and raise the risk of blood clots.
      • Deficiency of natural anticoagulant proteins such as protein C, protein S, and antithrombin deficiencies can increase the risk of clotting.(7)
      • Inherited conditions such as antiphospholipid syndrome or elevated levels of homocysteine can contribute to abnormal clotting.(8)
    3. Consequences of Untreated Blood Clot

      There are several consequences and potentially life-threatening conditions that can result due to untreated blood clots. These include: 

      • Pulmonary Embolism: Blood clots in deep veins of the legs break loose and travel to the lungs causing pulmonary embolism.
      • Post-Thrombotic Syndrome: The blood clot may damage the affected vein and lead to long-term complications known as post-thrombotic syndrome.
      • Stroke: Blood clots affecting the arteries supplying the brain can cause stroke. The degrees of neurological impairment may depend on the location and size of the clot.
      • Heart Attack: Arterial blood clots block the coronary arteries and this may reduce or cut off blood supply to the muscles.
      • Organ Damage: Blood clots affecting the blood vessels supplying organs can cause damage to those organs.

      Any of the consequences need immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent these consequences to get severe.

  3. Common Symptoms of Blood Clots

    According to the American Blood Clot Association, the symptoms of blood clots may depend on the type of blood clot.(1)

    1. Deep Vein Thrombosis: There may be swelling on the affected leg along with pain and tenderness. The area affected by deep vein thrombosis may be warm and tender. There may be visible distention of superficial veins and the legs may feel achy and heavy. The person may also experience cramping and soreness. The skin may turn pale and bluish.
    2. Pulmonary Embolism: In pulmonary embolism, there may be shortness of breath without exertion, pain in the chest that worsens on deep breathing, and coughing up blood. The person may feel lightheaded or dizzy. There may be a fainting feeling, sharp and stabbing pain in the side or back, sweating, anxiety, and a sense of impending doom.
    3. Stroke: Sudden weakness radiating to the left arm, jaw, and back. There may be shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, light-headedness, and unexplained fatigue or weakness.
    4. Heart Attack: There may be chest pain or discomfort radiating to the left arm, jaw, or back. There may be shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, or light-headedness. There may also be unexplained fatigue or weakness.
    5. Abdominal Blood Clots: The person with abdominal blood clots may have abdominal pain and tenderness, swelling or distention of the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and blood in the urine.

    The presence of any of the above symptoms may not necessarily indicate a blood clot. It may also indicate other conditions as well.

  4. Prevention of Blood Clots

    Prevention of blood clots is important for reducing the risk of developing potentially life-threatening conditions.

    The effective strategies include: 

    • Maintaining healthy body weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise. Regular exercise promotes healthy blood circulation. Losing excess weight reduces the risk of clot formation.
    • Staying hydrated by drinking excess water, herbal teas, and non-caffeinated beverages can be helpful in preventing blood clot formation.
    • Taking frequent breaks from work and moving around after long periods of sitting or immobility is important.
    • Quitting smoking and avoiding tobacco products can be helpful and prevent blood clot formation.
    • For those using hormonal therapies such as oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, it is important to discuss the risk and benefits with the healthcare provider.
    • A person with a strong family history of blood clots should get genetic testing done to identify inherited clotting disorders.
  5. Diagnosis and Treatment of Blood Clots

    1. Diagnosis of Blood Clots

      Diagnosis of blood clots may vary depending on the location of the blood clot. According to the Centers for disease control and Prevention, almost 50% of people with deep vein thrombosis have no symptoms.(3) The healthcare provider enquires about the individual’s symptoms and performs a physical examination.

      According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, some of the common tests include:(2)

      • Ultrasound exam, which is mostly used to diagnose deep vein thrombosis.
      • Venography, which shows the blood flow in the veins
      • MRI scan
      • Pulmonary angiogram, in which a dye is used, and with the help of an x-ray the location of pulmonary embolism.
      • CT angiography test is done to check clots in the head, neck, chest, and abdomen.
    2. Treatment of Blood Clots

      Treatment of blood clots involves reducing the size of the clot and preventing new clot formation.

      Typical treatment of blood clots includes :(2)

      • Anticoagulant medications known as blood thinner can be helpful in preventing new clot formation.
      • Compression stockings
      • Thrombolytic therapy to dissolve clots
      • Vena cava filters are small devices that a surgeon inserted into veins to prevent clots from traveling to the lungs.

      It is important for the person with the risk of blood clots to discuss with the doctor about the treatment options.


Blood clots can form anywhere in the veins and arteries. They can lead to complications such as heart attack or stroke. It is important to be aware of the risk factors for developing a blood clot which includes obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and pregnancy. It is important to seek medical attention for someone with a blood clot. A healthcare professional may look over the medical history of the person and decide upon the appropriate intervention.

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 10, 2023

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