Not all blood clots are bad. Blood has a mechanism that forms a 'plug' or clot at the site of an injury to stop the bleeding when you are injured, for example when you have a cut to your skin. This stops us bleeding to death.
It is when the blood's clotting mechanism goes wrong and forms a blood clot when there has been no injury and the clot forms inside the blood vessel that a serious condition can occur. When this happens you may hear the blood clot called a thrombus or thrombosis.
Below are four of the most common conditions that are caused by a blood clot.
Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism (DVT & PE)
A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) usually forms in the deep veins in the calf of the leg but it sometimes also occurs above the knee). A DVT can also occur in other deep veins such as your arm.
Sometimes a piece of the clot breaks off and travels through the blood to the lungs where it blocks an artery. This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). Pulmonary embolism is a very serious condition and if left untreated, can be fatal.
Not all DVTs can be prevented but learning if you may be at risk and what you can do to help yourself is very important.
Cancer Associated Thrombosis (CAT)
Cancer associated thrombosis (CAT) is a blood clot that occurs in someone with cancer. People who have cancer are at greater risk of developing a blood clot.
In fact developing a blood clot while living with cancer is far from unusual. Someone with cancer is SEVEN times more likely to get CAT than a similar non-cancer patient.
CAT is one of the leading causes of death in cancer patients, after cancer itself.
There are effective medicines that can treat, or prevent further blood clots from forming and you can help to try and prevent CAT.
Hospital Acquired Thrombosis (HAT)
HAT is term used when people develop blood clots when having treatment in hospital, or develop a blood clot within a period of time after they have been discharged from hospital.
Some people are more at risk of developing a blood clot when in hospital so when you are admitted you should be assessed to determine your level of risk of developing a clot. If you are at risk then you should be given preventative treatment known as thromboprophylaxis.
Atrial Fibrillation related Stroke (AF)
Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is an abnormality in the rhythm of the heart that can cause an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. If you have AF you are five times more likely to have a stroke.
When the heart beats normally, its muscular walls tighten and squeeze to force blood out and around the body. When they relax, the heart fills with blood again and this process occurs every time the heart beats. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart contract randomly (fibrilate) and sometimes so fast that the heart muscle cannot relax properly causing the heart to be less efficient.
When the heart is not pumping properly there is a risk that blood may pool (stagnate) at the bottom of the hearts chambers. When this happens blood clots can form. If a clot breaks off it can travel to the brain where it can block an artery stopping oxygen and blood getting to the brain and causing a stroke. This type of stroke is called an ischemic stroke.