The type of blood clot a person has will typically depend on where they affect a person’s body. Although they have different causes and symptoms, blood clots can have serious or fatal complications.

Blood clots help a person’s body prevent excessive bleeding, blood loss, and infections. A person’s body stops bleeding by forming a clot over injured blood vessels. The blood clot then normally dissolves naturally after the injury heals.

However, sometimes clots do not dissolve, or they can form without an injury. These blood clots can cause people to have dangerous complications, such as heart attacks or strokes. Different types of blood clots cause different symptoms. The most common type of blood clot is deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Read on to learn more about the different types of blood clots and their symptoms.

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Interventional neuroradiology, Pasteur 2 Hospital, Nice, France, Emergency treatment of an ischemic stroke through thrombectomy. BSIP/Getty Images

A thrombus is a blood clot that forms inside a person’s veins, arteries, or heart. Thrombosis is the medical name for the formation of a thrombus.

A thrombus that breaks loose and flows to another location in a person’s body is known as an embolus. Embolism is the medical name for a blocked artery caused by an embolus.

If a person has a blood clot that forms in a vein, they have venous thromboembolism (VTE). Different types of blood clots and their effects depend on their location in a person’s body, such as:

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): DVTs usually form in a person’s thighs, pelvis, lower legs, and sometimes in their arms. DVTs can partly or completely block blood flow through a vein, causing damage to the limbs.
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE): If a person does not receive treatment for DVT, a clot can move into a person’s lungs, becoming a pulmonary embolism. People with PE need immediate medical attention, as it can have fatal complications.
  • Arterial thrombosis (AT): A blood clot in an artery is arterial thrombosis. Arteries carry blood from a person’s heart to the rest of their body. This type of blood clot can stop blood from reaching important organs. This can cause a person to have serious or fatal health problems.

If a person has DVT, their symptoms can include:

  • swelling
  • pain
  • tenderness
  • skin redness

If a person has PE, their symptoms can include:

  • having difficulty breathing
  • fainting
  • lightheadedness
  • having very low blood pressure
  • a faster-than-normal or irregular heartbeat
  • chest pain that worsens with deep breathing or coughing
  • coughing up blood

Other blood clot symptoms depend on where in a person’s body the clot is:

  • abdomen:
    • abdominal pain
    • nausea
    • vomiting
  • arms or legs:
    • sudden or gradual pain
    • warmth
    • tenderness
    • swelling
  • lungs:
    • shortness of breath
    • pain with deep breathing
    • rapid breathing
    • having an increased heart rate
  • brain:
    • trouble speaking
    • vision problems
    • seizures
    • weakness on one side of a person’s body
    • a sudden, severe headache
  • heart:
    • chest pain
    • sweating
    • shortness of breath
    • pain in a person’s left arm

A person’s body maintains normal blood flow using a balance of two different molecules. Procoagulant molecules help blood clots form, and anticoagulants prevent blood clots. Certain blood clotting disorders or risk factors can cause an imbalance between the different molecules and affect how blood clots form.

Risk factors that can cause blood clots include:

  • having obesity
  • being pregnant
  • smoking
  • certain medications, such as oral contraceptives
  • having a family history of blood clots
  • not moving for long periods, such as during long trips or with bed rest
  • cancer
  • certain health conditions

Some medical conditions can make a person more likely to have blood clots:

People with some genetic conditions are also more likely to have blood clots. These include factor V Leiden and prothrombin G20210A variations.

Those with factor V Leiden variations have an alteration in one of their blood clotting factors. It increases the chances of developing VTE. Prothrombin G20210A variations increase a person’s risk of DVTs or PEs. It is the second most common inherited risk factor for thrombosis after factor V Leiden variation.

People can help prevent blood clots by:

  • wearing loose-fitting clothes and socks
  • wearing compression stockings, if prescribed by a doctor
  • exercising as recommended by a doctor
  • moving every hour
  • avoiding sitting or standing for longer than an hour at a time
  • raising the bottom of their bed 4 to 6 inches
  • not using pillows under their knees
  • limiting the amount of salt and red meat in their diet
  • eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

Doctors can treat a person’s blood clots with medications called blood thinners, or anticoagulants. Common examples of anticoagulants include heparin and warfarin.

There are different types of blood clots. Two of the most common types are deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Both can cause different symptoms and serious complications.

Several risk factors can raise a person’s risk of blood clots. People inherit some from their parents but have others due to medical conditions, lifestyle, or other circumstances.

Doctors can prescribe medication to help treat blood clots. People can also take simple steps to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of developing blood clots.