A simple, lifesaving treatment
Blood clots, though often seen in a negative light because of the destructive nature they can have on the vascular system, are actually a healthy, vital part of the human body. When bleeding occurs, blood clots prevent massive bleeding from occurring through a four step process. The only way that blood clots can turn out to be a problem is when they irregularly form due to poor blood flow, and travel to other parts of the body. However, there are treatment options for those who suffer from conditions that are responsible for improper blood clot development.
Blood Clot Formation
A blood clot can only develop if all of the segments of its life cycle occur. First, when a blood vessel is damaged, a signal is immediately sent to platelets in the blood – infinitesimal bits that stick to the walls of the affected vessel. During this process, the platelets change shape to form a plug, filling the broken vessel to stop blood from leaking out. The next step begins when the platelets holding together the blockage release chemicals to help attract more platelets to the area – similar to how a military general will call in for reinforcements when backup is required.
As proteins in the blood send off an instantaneous chain reaction to acquire more platelets, the clot will continue to grow. When no more platelets are required, the signal stops and a long strand of fibrin is expelled to catch more platelets. The net of platelets and other relevant cells is taken to the area, making the clot stronger, as well as blocking off the affected area. Once there is no longer a cause for concern, other proteins in the blood offset extra clotting so the original clot doesn’t break off and travel to other parts of the body. Finally, the clot begins to slowly break down after the damaged tissue fully heals. As the platelets begin to break off, the fibrin that gathered all of the reinforcement platelets returns all of the used cells back to where they originated.
Conditions Caused by Blood Clots
Unintentional blood clots (i.e. not from an obvious wound or visible break in the skin) can form through a few different methods. In some cases, when plaque from cholesterol found in the arteries breaks open, the clotting process can be triggered. In other cases, slow or improper blood flow can also cause the formation of blood clots, as when platelets stick together, pools of blood can form in the heart or other blood vessels. Atrial fibrillation (an irregular, rapid heartbeat that causes poor flow) or deep vein thrombosis (blood clotting in the deep vein systems of the leg) are common conditions that arise when regular blood flow doesn’t take place. Furthermore, with deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot has the potential to break off and travel to other parts of the body – if the clot dislodges and makes its way to one of the lung’s veins, a pulmonary embolism will occur, and can be life-threatening.
In most cases, one of two medications are traditionally applied for treating blood clots, though each drug has a different purpose. Some medications simply stop platelets from delivering signals to each other so they won’t stick together – Aspirin, Clopidogrel (Plavix), Dipyridamole (Persantine), Prasugrel (Effient), Ticagrelor (Brilinta) and Ticlopidine (Ticlid) are the most commonly used types of this drug. However, blood thinners can also be utilized, as they can make it difficult for the clotting processes to occur by preventing proteins from sending signals to form more platelets. Blood thinners that are typically prescribed include Apixaban (Eliquis), Dabigatran (Pradaxa), Edoxaban (Savaysa), Heparin, Rivaroxaban (Xarelto), Lovenox and Warafin (Coumadin).
Through anticoagulant therapy, the blood is thinned to help prevent current clots from increasing in size, as well as prevents new clots from forming. However, they won’t dissolve any clots that are currently in the body. When treated for deep vein thrombosis, an IV of Heparin could be administered for several days, or an injection of Lovenox could be taken once a day for 5 to 7 days. After that, Warfarin – an anticoagulant pill – is given. Though it could take a few days for the medication to have effect, you may also be administered heparin. For up to six months, this regimen is taken, all while taking routine blood tests to ensure that blood is at the appropriate level of thinness to prevent clots from forming.
Anticoagulant therapy is a safe process, but it is important to follow any advice given by the physician or specialist administering it. Before pursuing any type of anticoagulant therapy, consult your physician.