Nurse's Notes September 2018

Blood Clots: What you Need to Know

What is a clot?

A clot is a clump of cells and protein in your blood. A clot helps slow bleeding when you are injured. It usually dissolves as you heal. But if it doesn't, or if it forms when it's not needed, it can clog up or completely block a blood vessel.

What problems can it cause?

In an artery, it can give you a heart attack or a stroke. If it happens in a vein, you can feel pain and swelling. A clot deep inside your body is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). One in your lungs is a pulmonary embolism (PE). They are both medical emergencies.

Know your chances

You can get a clot if you break a bone or pull a muscle badly. But sometimes you may not know why it happened or that you have one. Your odds are higher if you:

  • Are recovering from surgery or had to sit too long on a flight or in a wheelchair

  • Are overweight or obese

  • Have diabetes or high cholesterol

  • Are over 60 years old

What to Watch For

Swelling - When a clot slows blood flow it can build up in the vessel and make it swell.

Skin color - If a clot plugs up veins in your arms or legs, they may look bluish or reddish.

Pain - Sudden intense pain in the chest or left arm. A clot often hurts where it is located.

Trouble breathing - Shortness of breath or bloody cough indicate a PE.