The Difference Between Good and Bad Blood Clots

How to Tell the Difference Between Good and Bad Blood Clots

A blood clot is a mass of congealed blood that forms when blood transforms from a liquid to a solid, a process known as coagulation. When you get a cut or other injury, coagulation is an important part of the body’s response, forming a scab so that the bleeding stops. However, a blood clot that is released into the bloodstream can cause serious medical complications. Read on to learn more about the difference between good and bad blood clots.

When a blood vessel is damaged, chemical messengers tell the blood to begin forming tiny particles called platelets, which stick together to form a “plug” that stops the wound from bleeding. This signals proteins in the blood called clotting factors to trigger a chain reaction of other formations that make the clot even more durable. When you don’t need the clot anymore, your body naturally breaks it down as part of the healing process.

While blood clots can be lifesaving, they can also be dangerous and even deadly. Plaque buildup in the arteries that carry blood throughout the body contain blood clots within. If an area of plaque breaks open, this clot can be released into the bloodstream and can block blood flow to the heart, brain, lungs and other organs. This is the most common underlying cause of heart attack and stroke. Other medical conditions, including atrial fibrillation and deep vein thrombosis, manifest with slow moving blood that can cause clotting problems.

The good news is that the dangerous type of blood clots can often be prevented. If you are at high risk for clot formation, your doctor may prescribe a blood thinner or aspirin regimen to keep the blood from coagulating. If a clot is detected before it breaks off into the blood stream, your doctor may prescribe a clot dissolving drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). This drug can also be administered after a heart attack or stroke.

In some cases, immediate medical treatment can prevent serious complications from a blood clot. Seek emergency medical attention if you are experiencing shortness of breath; a feeling of pressure, fullness, or squeezing pain in your chest; pain that extends to the shoulders, arm, jaw, or back; a rapid heartbeat; a weak or numb feeling in the face, arm, or leg; sudden confusion or difficulty understanding and communicating; sudden vision problems; and swelling, redness, numbness, or pain in your arm or leg.

While there are a number of reasons for the formation of dangerous blood clots, some people are at higher risk for these types of clots. This includes those who have atherosclerosis, deep vein thrombosis, peripheral artery disease, previous heart attack, heart arrhythmia, or heart failure; who take certain medications, including oral contraceptives, hormone therapy drugs, and some breast cancer medications; who have a family or personal history of blood clots; have had recent surgery or have been on prolonged bed rest; and who are pregnant, are obese, or smoke. While some of these risk factors cannot be changed, others can be controlled by lifestyle changes. You should lose weight if you are overweight or obese, lower your blood pressure if a doctor has told you it is too high, stop smoking, eat a nutritious diet, and get plenty of exercise. In addition, avoid prolonged sitting or bedrest, especially after a medical procedure.

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