Top 5 Causes of Blood Clots: Stay Informed and Stay Safe!

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
Blog Top5 Causes Of Blood Clots

While a potentially life-threatening concern, thrombosis, the medical term for blood clot, is surprisingly common, as nearly 100,000 deaths result from preventable blood clots every year. These unwanted clumps form when blood, instead of flowing freely, solidifies within a blood vessel, obstructing its passage. Often associated with injuries or surgeries, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can strike even seemingly healthy individuals. Understanding the causes empowers us to stay informed and proactively protect our health.

What is a Blood Clot?

Blood clots are vital to the body's natural healing process, preventing excessive bleeding when a blood vessel is injured. However, when blood clots form unnecessarily or do not dissolve, they can lead to serious health issues. Known as venous thromboembolism (VTE), dangerous blood clots impact an estimated 900,000 Americans annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Imagine blood, normally flowing freely, clumping together like wet snow, blocking a vessel. This blood clot potentially prevents essential oxygen and nutrients from reaching vital organs. While some clots arise after injuries or surgeries, they can also occur unexpectedly.

Blood clot dangers vary depending on where the clot forms:

  • Arterial clots form when a process called atherosclerosis damages an artery that carries oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the body. Often linked to heart disease, arterial thrombosis (a blood clot that develops in an artery) can cause heart attacks or strokes. Penn Medicine outlines symptoms of arterial embolism that include cold arms or legs, decreased or no pulse in an arm or leg, or pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, or paleness in an arm or leg.
  • Venous clots are more common in the leg veins and are known by the blanket term venous thromboembolism (VTE), a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein, most commonly in the legs; VTE includes deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition in which a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body (usually in the legs, but can also form in the arms or pelvis), and pulmonary embolism (PE).
  • Pulmonary embolism is when a blood clot breaks off, travels to the lungs, and blocks an artery. Per Johns Hopkins Medicine, symptoms of a life-threatening PE blood clot include sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, an overwhelming anxious feeling, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, and coughing, sometimes producing blood.

What Causes a Blood Clot? Am I at Risk?

Determining your risk requires personalized assessment by a healthcare professional who can consider various risk factors, including:

  • Obesity: Excess weight puts pressure on veins, especially in the legs, slowing blood flow. Stagnant blood is more likely to form clots compared to free-flowing blood.
  • Immobility or prolonged inactivity: Regular movement, even small movements like ankle pumps or leg stretches, can significantly improve blood flow and reduce the risk of blood clots. The longer you are inactive, the higher the risk of blood clots. Even prolonged sitting can be detrimental.
  • Smoking: Per the American Blood Cot Association, smoking changes the surface of blood platelets, making it easier for them to clump together. It also damages the lining of blood vessel walls, increasing the potential for clots to form.
  • Pregnancy: Per the CDC, natural changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy, childbirth, and the three months after delivery can put women at higher risk for a blood clot. During pregnancy, the body's blood coagulation system becomes more active to prevent excessive bleeding during labor and delivery, increasing the risk of blood clot formation. As the pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus can compress the veins in the pelvis, reducing blood flow from the legs.
  • Certain medical conditions and surgeries: Cancer, heart disease, and stroke, as well as surgeries on the abdomen, pelvis, or legs, can increase the risk of blood clots.
  • Family history: Inherited genetic mutations can affect the body's blood clotting process. Certain genetic mutations can lead to a condition known as thrombophilia, which increases the tendency of the blood to clot. Further, some genetic risk factors for blood clots follow a dominant inheritance pattern, meaning that an individual only needs to inherit a mutation from one parent to be at increased risk, increasing the likelihood of these genetic factors being passed down within families.
  • Varicose veins: These swollen, bulging, twisted, often painful veins are caused by weakened one-way valves in the leg veins. These dysfunctional veins increase blood pressure in the legs and interrupt the free flow of blood from the legs up toward the heart, leading to superficial blood clots, also known as superficial thrombophlebitis, according to the National Blood Clot Alliance. While these superficial clots do not usually travel to the lungs or cause a pulmonary embolism, severe varicose veins can pose a risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Center for Vein Restoration (CVR), America’s largest physician-led vein center, offers safe, effective outpatient treatment for varicose veins. CVR boasts a 98% patient satisfaction rating and accepts various insurances, including Aetna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Medicare. Don’t let varicose veins increase your blood clot risk—get them treated by the industry leader in vein health!

How can I reduce my risk of developing blood clots?

While several known risk factors for developing blood clots are out of one’s control, such as family history, medical conditions, and pregnancy, there are many risks that an individual can control, such as:

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Speak to a healthcare professional about healthy ways to lose weight and decrease pressure on your legs and inside your abdomen.
  2. Stay Active: According to Harvard Health, regular exercise actually grows more blood vessels by expanding the network of capillaries and boosting levels of the enzymes that allow muscle cells to use oxygen to generate energy, generating more oxygen-rich blood.
  3. Hydrate: Drinking plenty of water is essential, especially for individuals with other risk factors for blood clots. Healthline recommends that males consume 15.5 cups of water and females 11.5 cups daily.
  4. Stop Smoking: The chemicals found in tobacco smoke change the surface of blood platelets, making it easier for them to clump together. Smoking also damages the lining of blood vessel walls, increasing the potential for clots to form.
  5. Break Up Long Periods of Sitting: Avoid prolonged periods of sitting, especially during long trips or after surgery. Sitting too long also increases your risk of chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, and is detrimental to your mental health.
  6. Take Prescribed Medications: Certain medications, such as anticoagulants, which include heparin or warfarin (also called Coumadin), slow down the body's clot-making process. Antiplatelets, such as aspirin, keep blood cells (platelets) from clumping together to form a clot. Take only as directed by a healthcare professional.
  7. Wear Compression Stockings: These special socks can help prevent blood clots, particularly during long periods of immobility. The graduated pressure of the stockings on the leg, which is greatest at the ankle, displaces blood from the superficial venous system to the deep venous system, reducing the slowing or pooling of blood.
  8. Get Treatment for Varicose Veins: Minimally invasive procedures to treat varicose veins can help improve blood flow, reduce the risk of blood clots, and alleviate symptoms associated with varicose veins, including pain, itchy, throbbing, and feelings of leg heaviness. Varicose vein treatments enhance vein function and improve circulation in the long term by interrupting the damaging effects of chronic venous insufficiency (vein disease), thereby reducing the likelihood of blood clot formation.

Reduce Your Risk of Blood Clots at Center for Vein Restoration

Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) is a nationally renowned leader in varicose vein treatment, offering pain-free solutions with compassionate, affordable care. CVR has redefined patient care for venous disorders nationwide, providing comprehensive vein treatment by expert doctors.

All CVR vein centers meet exacting standards and are accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC). This nonprofit, nationally recognized accrediting organization utilizes a rigorous clinical peer review process to ensure quality and safe practices are established for improved patient outcomes.

Call 240-965-3915 to speak to a Patient Services Representative or schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you today.

CVR accepts many insurances, including Aetna, Amerigroup, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MultiPlan, Medicaid, Medicare, and more.

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