Blood clots are gel-like collections of blood that form in your veins or arteries when blood changes from liquid to partially solid. When you hurt yourself, clotting can stop your body from bleeding too much. It is a body function that can help in certain situations. But blood clots that form in some places can be dangerous.
A blood clot may stay in one spot (called thrombosis) or move through the body (called embolism). The symptoms of a blood clot, and the recommended treatment, depend on where a clot forms in your body and how much damage it could cause. Knowing the most common blood clot signs and risk factors can help you spot or even prevent this potentially life-threatening condition.
Blood clots that form in arteries or veins can be serious. It is important to seek healthcare immediately if you suspect a blood clot.
A clot that forms in one of your body’s larger veins is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A stationary blood clot, or one that stays in place, may not hurt you. A blood clot that dislodges and begins moving through the bloodstream can be harmful.
One of the most pressing blood clot concerns is when a DVT makes its way to your lungs and gets stuck. This condition, called pulmonary embolism, can stop blood from flowing and the results can be very serious, even fatal.
Several factors contribute developing a blood clot. Some definite risk factors put certain people at higher risk for developing a blood clot.
Blood clots become more common as people get older, especially over age 65. Long hospital stays and trauma may significantly increase your risk of blood clots.
Other factors can increase your risk to a lesser degree. You might be more at risk if you:
Blood clot symptoms will depend on where a clot forms in your body. Some people may experience no symptoms at all. Blood clots can occur in the:
Blood clot symptoms can mimic other health conditions. Doctors use a variety of tests to detect blood clots and/or rule out other causes. If your doctor suspects a blood clot, he or she may recommend:
When doctors detect a blood clot, particularly a DVT, their goal in treatment is to prevent the blood clot from getting larger or breaking loose. Treatment can reduce your chances of developing more blood clots in the future.
Treatment depends on where the blood clot is and how likely it is to harm you. Your doctor might recommend:
A blood clot can cause serious consequences. You should reach out to your doctor if you think you have a blood clot. Call your doctor or 911 right away if you have sudden swelling in an arm or leg, have chest pain, trouble breathing or experience problems seeing or speaking that come out of nowhere.
You can reduce your risk of blood clots by:
If you are concerned about your blood clot risk in certain situations, such as when you are traveling or after a surgery, your doctor can give you more information on other habits that can help.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/20/2017