What are the causes of a blood clot, and how to prevent one?

What are the causes of a blood clot, and how to prevent one?
Submitted and Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mavra Farrukh


Blood clots form when the consistency of blood in your veins or arteries changes from liquid to gel-like or partially solid. Clotting is a normal phenomenon, but if these clots do not dissolve on their own, they can be dangerous. The article discusses the causes, risks, treatments and prevention of blood clots.

What is a blood clot?

Blood clots are thick gel-like collections of blood that form in your arteries or veins when the blood changes its consistency. Clotting is a normal phenomenon that takes place in the body and stops a person from bleeding excessively when you are injured. However, if these blood clots don’t dissolve on their own, they may have dangerous consequences for one’s health.

When there is an injury to a blood vessel, the process of blood clot formation is initiated. Firstly, the blood stays in one place, and then substances called the platelets and fibrin, combine to form a platelet plug to fill the hole. 

If a blood clot forms where it should not have normally developed, it is termed a thrombus. A blood clot is also referred to as a thrombus. The clot may remain in one spot, which is called thrombosis or travel through the body elsewhere, which is termed an embolism or thromboembolism. The clots that travel are considered dangerous as they can disrupt the blood supply to an organ. Blood clots can form in either veins or arteries.

The symptoms of a blood clot and the best treatment depend on the clot’s location in your body and the damage it could potentially cause. Therefore, it is vital to consult a doctor to know the most common blood clot signs and risk factors that can help you prevent this potentially life-threatening condition.

Blood clot types

The circulatory system comprises blood vessels that are called veins and arteries. The primary function of these is to transport blood throughout your body. Blood clots can form in these veins or arteries. There are two types of clots:

Arterial clot

If a blood clot occurs or forms in an artery, it’s called an arterial embolism. This type of clot results in sudden symptoms and requires emergency treatment. The symptoms of an arterial clot include: 

  • pain
  • weakness
  • change in temperature or a cold feeling in the affected area
  • decreased pulsation or no pulse in your leg or arm
  • loss of movement in the affected area
  • change in colour 
  • blisters on the skin
  • damage of the overlying skin
  • skin ulcers
  • damage of the skin around the affected area

Venous clot

A blood clot that appears in a vein is called a venous embolism. These types of clots usually form slowly over time but may still be life-threatening. Symptoms of a venous blood clot include: 

  • swelling
  • pain
  • Increased temperature/sensation of warmth
  • cramps
  • red or skin discoloration 

The potentially dangerous type of venous clot is DVT. Deep Venous thrombosis forms a clot in one of the major vessels deep inside your body. The most common location are the legs, but it can also occur in your: 

  • arms
  • lungs
  • brain
  • pelvis

According to the CDC, DVT and pulmonary embolism affect up to 900,000 Americans yearly. Resultantly around 100,000 Americans die annually.

Do you have pain, redness and swelling in your arm or leg? Consult with our doctor to find out if your symptoms correlate to a blood clot

What are the signs or symptoms of a blood clot?

Blood clot symptoms and signs of a blood clot largely depend on the location where the clot forms in your body. Some people may remain symptomless. Commonly blood clots can form in the: 

  • Abdomen: Blood clots in the belly area or blood clots in the stomach can cause pain, nausea or vomiting.
  • Legs of Arms: Symptoms of a blood clot in the leg can cause tenderness and pain in the region. Swelling, warmth and redness are some signs of blood clots of a blood clot in the leg. 
  • Brain: Symptoms of blood clot in brain are different depending on which part of the brain is affected. A blood clot in brain can cause problems related to speech and vision, inability to move, loss of sensations or seizures
  • Heart or lungs: Blood clots in the heart symptoms will result in symptoms of a heart attack. Symptoms of a blood clot include chest pain, sweating, pain that radiates down the left arm, or shortness of breath. If a blood clot is somewhere in the lungs, it can lead to chest pain, difficulty breathing or blood while coughing.

What causes blood clots?

Numerous things can cause blood clots, and the cause usually depends on the type of clot. When blood clots form in your arteries, that is generally a result of fat or mineral deposition. These pieces, also called plaques, can break off and disrupt blood flow.

Although, clots that form in the veins can be due to various causes including: 

  • injury or trauma to the area where the clot forms or another medical disease
  • lack of movement
  • fracture
  • genetic disorders that affect how your clotting mechanism
  • obesity
  • autoimmune disorders
  • certain medications namely like hormone therapy or birth control  

Risk factors 

Certain risk factors put individuals at higher risk for developing a blood clot.

Blood clots are more prevalent in individuals over 65. Prolonged hospital stays, trauma and surgeries can significantly increase your risk of blood clots. 

Following are some factors that can increase your risk of blood clots in veins:

  • Being on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
  • Pregnancy
  • Having cancer or getting treatment for cancer.
  • A family history of blood clots or conditions including conditions such as Factor V Leiden disease, antiphospholipid syndrome or polycythemia vera increases the likelihood of clots.
  • COVID-19.

Additionally, some lifestyle choices increase the risks as well:

  • Being overweight/obesity.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Smoking.

If you have questions such as do blood clots hurt or need to know how to treat blood clots, you should consult a doctor for accurate information. 


Blood clot symptoms can be similar to other health conditions. Therefore, various tests are required to detect or diagnose blood clots. To check for a blood clot, your doctor may recommend:

  • Blood tests 
  • Ultrasound usually provides a clear picture of your veins and blood flow.
  • CT scan of the head, chest or abdomen helps to confirm if you have a blood clot. 
  • Magnetic resonance angiography is an imaging test that looks specifically at blood vessels.
  • V/Q scans test the circulation of air and blood in the lungs.

How to get rid of blood clots or treatment and care

Treatment or blood clot medication depends on where the blood clot is located and how potentially dangerous it is. The goal in treating blood clots is to halt the blood clot from increasing in size or breaking loose, especially in the case of DVTs. Furthermore, treatment can help reduce your chances of developing more blood clots in the future.

  • Medication: Anticoagulants, more commonly known as blood thinners, help prevent blood clots from forming. Drugs called thrombolytics can dissolve already-formed clots and are used to treat life-threatening blood clots.
  • Compression stockings: These tight-fitting stockings provide sufficient pressure that helps reduce leg swelling, ultimately preventing blood clots from forming. So if you are looking to dissolve blood clots in legs, this might help in conjunction with medication.
  • Surgery: This is a catheter-directed procedure during which specialists direct a catheter to the blood clot. The catheter helps to deliver medication directly to the clot to help it to dissolve. In thrombectomy surgery, the blood clot is carefully removed by the surgeon.
  • Stents: A stent is usually placed to keep a blood vessel open.
  • Vena cava filters: If an individual cannot take blood thinners, a filter is placed into the inferior vena cava to trap blood clots before they can travel to the lungs. 

How to prevent blood clots

Following are some tips on how to prevent blood clots naturally or blood clot home treatment:

  • Enjoying regular physical activity.
  • Avoid smoking. 
  • Eating a healthy diet and maintaining hydration.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. 
  • Managing high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Getting cancer screening.

When to Consult a Doctor

A blood clot can have serious consequences and can prove fatal. If you have any presexisting risks for blood clots, it is best to consult a doctor at Your Doctors Online. 

Chat With a Doctor if you have any risk factors for developing a blood clot

FAQs About Blood Clot Answered by Your Doctors Online 

Can you survive a blood clot?

Blood clots can be treated with prompt diagnosis. Treatment and survival depend on the location of the clot in the body and the severity of the symptoms.

How do you know if you have a blood clot?

Cramping pain, swelling, discoloration, warmth in a limb, sudden shortness of breath, sharp chest pain or coughing up blood are some symptoms that can indicate a blood clot. 

How does a blood clot go away?

Anticoagulants, more commonly known as blood thinners, help prevent blood clots from forming, and there are surgical procedures that help remove the clot. 

Can compression stockings dislodge a clot?

These tight-fitting stockings provide sufficient pressure that helps reduce leg swelling, ultimately preventing blood clots from forming.

Are blood clots painful?

Blood clots can present with cramping pain in the legs or arms. 

Are blood clots dangerous?

Blood clots can prove to be fatal. Blood clots that appear in the veins of your legs, and arms can break loose and migrate to other parts of your body, causing further complications.

Can you get a blood clot in your foot? 

Plantar vein thrombosis is a rare cause of plantar foot pain. It is characterized by forming a blood clot within one of the plantar veins. 

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