Blood Clotting

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

Normal blood clotting is a necessary condition that helps stop bleeding after you’re cut or injured. Once the bleeding stops and healing begins, the body breaks down and dissolves the clots.

Blood clot symptoms vary, depending on where the clot or clots are located. In some people, blood clots can form when blood flows too slowly through their blood vessels. Others can havea condition that causes excessive blood clotting, also known as hypercoagulation or thrombotic disorders. Excessive blood clotting allows blood clots to form too easily and prevents them from dissolving properly.

With excessive blood clotting, clots can form when blood moves through the body. And because the body doesn’t dissolve them properly, the clots can block or restrict blood flow inside the veins and arteries, seriously damaging nearby tissues and organs. Depending on where they’re located, the clots may damage the brain, heart, lungs or limbs—sometimes with life-threatening consequences. 

Blood Clot Symptoms

Symptoms of blood clots or excessive blood clotting include:

  • Clots deep within the veins of the lower body may cause leg pain, swelling, redness and warmth. These could be symptoms of deep vein thrombosis. Learn more about deep vein thrombosis symptoms.
  • Clots in the brain may cause problems with speaking or understanding speech, headaches, paralysis or dizziness. These could be symptoms of a stroke.
  • Clots in the heart or lungs may cause shortness of breath, pain in the chest, arm, shoulder or jaw. These symptoms could be symptoms of a heart attack or a pulmonary embolism. Learn more about the heart attack signs and symptoms or pulmonary embolism symptoms.
  • Clots in the kidneys may cause hypertension, or high blood pressure. 

What Causes Blood Clots?

Excessive blood clotting can have many causes. Sometimes the cause is genetic, meaning a faulty gene prevents blood clots from developing or dissolving properly. Factor V Leiden, the most common hereditary blood coagulation disorder, causes about 25 percent of genetic blood clotting disorders.

In most cases, the cause is “acquired,” which means another condition or factor causes the excessive clotting. Examples of acquired causes include:

Other factors that may lead to excessive clotting include:

  • Dehydration
  • HIV and HIV treatments
  • Implanted devices, such as a central venous catheter
  • Increased homocysteine levels, an amino acid
  • Medications that contain estrogen (used in birth control pills and hormone therapy)
  • Organ transplants
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolonged bed rest or immobility
  • Smoking
  • Surgery performed on blood vessels

Diagnosing Excessive Blood Clots

Doctors typically diagnose excessive blood clotting based on your symptoms and your medical and family health histories. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood disorders.

To determine the cause for excessive blood clotting, your doctor may perform various lab tests that measure the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in your blood. Other tests may look at specific clotting proteins in the blood. If your doctor suspects a genetic cause, additional tests may be performed.

Treating Excessive Blood Clotting

Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. If the clot has caused a stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism or other serious condition, emergency treatment is often required. In some of these cases, special medicines known as thrombolytics, or “clot busters,” are used.

Non-emergency conditions can be treated with anticoagulants, or blood thinners. Your doctor will want to carefully monitor your blood to make sure this medication doesn’t put you at risk for bleeding.

Depending on your individual condition, your doctor may also advise you to take special steps to reduce your risk for developing blood clots by making special lifestyle changes, such as not smoking, getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet.

A Leader in Treating Excessive Blood Clotting

Aurora Health Care has multi-disciplinary teams include that include hematologists, vascular specialists, radiologists and cardiologists who collaborate in diagnosing and treating excessive blood clotting and their related disorders.

Find an Aurora doctor or heart specialist in eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.