Identifying Dangerous Blood Clots

Publication Date: 
Fri, 08/30/2013
By: Alere Staff

A normal function of the body is to form a blood clot to stop bleeding when you are injured. Some people form too many blood clots or their blood clots abnormally. There are many conditions that cause the blood to clot too much or prevent the clot from dissolving.

Risk factors for developing a clot1:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • Prolonged inactivity, for example long trips by plane or car
  • Smoking
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Certain cancers
  • Trauma and certain surgeries
  • Age (increased risk for people over age 60)
  • Inherited clotting disorders (family members who have had clots)

If you have ever had a clot or know someone who has, you understand how important it is to recognize the symptoms and warning signs. Since it isn’t the clot itself that causes problems, but rather the interruption in blow flow to organs and body parts beyond the clot that does, early recognition is essential. 

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is typically a clot in one extremity, a leg or arm. A clot in the lower extremity can involve just the foot, ankle, calf or whole leg. An upper extremity clot will usually involve the whole arm. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are several warning signs that will alert a person to a potential clot:

  • Tenderness or pain
  • Discoloration with a bluish or reddish tint
  • Warmth and swelling in the area

Pulmonary Embolism or a blood clot in the lungs has very different, but equally alarming warning signs. You may experience pain in the chest that worsens when taking a deep breath, have shortness of breath, a cough that may produce blood, or the sensation of a racing heartbeat.

Since there are many things that can put a person at risk for a blood clot, you should talk to your doctor about your risk of developing a clot. It is also important to recognize the symptoms early and to seek medical care right away.

  1. Blood clots. American Society of Hematology. http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Blood-Disorders/Blood-Clots/5233.aspx. Accessed August 9, 2013.