Blood Clots: Types and Causes
- Posted on: Oct 17 2022
Can a blood clot be caused by a heart arrhythmia?
The ability of blood to clot is extremely important. Otherwise, what we now view as small cuts and minor injuries could actually become life-threatening if we cannot stop the loss of blood. That said, when this process produces blood clots that are not successfully dissolved by the body, it can also be potentially life-threatening.
Blood clots typically begin to form when the body signals that there has been damage to a blood vessel. The blood will start to thicken as the platelets and fibrin, which is a tough fibrous protein, combine to create a gel-like, semisolid mass in a vein or artery. The goal is to plug up the hole where the blood vessel has been compromised and prevent blood loss, which is a good thing. The problem arises when a clot breaks away and is carried to other parts of the body where it can have serious consequences, like causing a heart attack or stroke.
Types of Blood Clots
Blood clots are classified in a couple of different ways. One of those is determined by whether the clot is stationary or whether it travels. The other means of classification is based on location, meaning whether the clot was formed in an artery or a vein.
The two types of blood clots based on movement are:
- Thrombus – a blood clots that remains where it was formed is called a thrombosis. This does not mean that it cannot be dangerous: it can still cut off blood flow. An example that most people are familiar with is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), often found in the lower leg, thigh or pelvis.
- Embolus – blood clots that break loose and travel to other parts of the body are referred to as embolisms. One that likely comes to mind is the pulmonary embolism (PE) caused by a blood clot lodging in the lungs, a serious and potentially life-threatening condition if not treated promptly.
Blood clots that are classified according to location are:
- Arterial clots – the arteries are the blood vessels responsible for carrying oxygen-enriched blood from the heart to the other parts of the body. When clots form in an artery, they not only affect the delivery of blood and oxygen to the other organs, they can end up in the brain, initiating a stroke or the heart resulting in a heart attack.
- Venous clots – our veins return blood to the heart. The blood clots that form in the veins are deep vein thrombosis, superficial venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.
Causes and Risk Factors for Blood Clots
There are a lot of different factors that may contribute to the formation of potentially harmful blood clots. As if it needed anything to make it more dangerous, a link has been found between COVID-19 and an increased risk of the development of a life-threatening blood clot called venous thromboembolism (VTE), even in those only moderately affected by the virus.
Some of the other risk factors associated with blood clots include:
- Medications, especially hormone therapy drugs and certain kinds of contraceptives
- Antiphospholipid syndrome
- Factor V Leiden
- Heart arrhythmia
- Heart failure
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- Polycythemia vera
- Surgical procedures
- Prolonged sitting or bed rest
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Posted in: Heart Disease