Blood has a naturally occurring clot factor that comes in handy if you have a cut or scratch to stop the bleeding and form a scab. However, a clot can form inside a vein or artery causing serious problems. Artery clots are an immediate threat as they block oxygenation of important organs. Venous clots form more slowly but will also eventually cause problems. Anywhere that a clot forms it is an issue because it blocks the flow of blood to some part of the body. As well as impeding the flow of blood, some clots may move away from the place where they formed to travel through the blood stream. Pulmonary embolism occurs when a clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs.
What Factors Increase Your Risk?
Certain lifestyle and heredity factors may increase your risk of developing blood clots. Here are some of the more common factors:
- Long periods of inactivity
- Injury to a blood vessel wall
- Family or personal history of clots
Dangers of Clots
Because clots can form many places in the body, they can in many cases be a real medical emergency, resulting in death, if not properly treated. When an arterial clot compromises blood flow to the brain and other organs, it can result in strokes and heart attacks. Even venous clots block the flow of blood to tissue that will eventually start to die from lack of oxygen, and can cause swelling, tenderness, and pain. Pulmonary embolisms kill around 60,000 people a year according to the APS Foundation of America, Inc.
Signs and Symptoms of Clots
Signs and symptoms of clots vary widely depending on where the clot formed. A brain clot may lead to headaches, while one in the stomach may lead to vomiting and diarrhea. The earlier you can recognize the symptoms and get treatment for serious clots, the better the chances for a good outcome and recovery. Some of the main warning signs include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in one arm or leg
- Chronic severe headaches
- Tenderness or swelling in one limb
- Unexplained vomiting and diarrhea
Click here for more information on recognizing clot symptoms.
Thrombolysis is the term used to describe treatment to break down clots. Catheter thrombolysis is a procedure which uses a catheter to enter the vein and administer a clot dissolving drug to the site of the embolism to dissolve it and restore circulation to the area. With EKOS catheter thrombolysis even clots that have dislodged and traveled to the lungs causing acute pulmonary embolism can be treated through only a tiny insertion site needed for the catheter. This catheter delivers the drug to the site with the aid of the ultrasound ports in its tip. Studies have shown that thrombolysis is capable of reducing the death rate associated with thrombosis from around 50% to less than 10%.