Blood clots: What they are, the symptoms, what you can do to avoid them

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As claims continue about links between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots, the situation highlights the dangers of the medical condition.

One healthcare specialist spoke to Al Arabiya English about the causes of clots that form in the blood stream, the symptoms to look out for and the chances of developing one from lifestyle choices.

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Although unable to discuss the AstraZeneca-blood clot situation, Dr Behrad Elahi, a consultant interventional cardiology from Al Zahra hospital in Dubai explained that “blood clotting or thrombosis is blood that changes form from liquid to a solid gel-like-state that can happen in your veins or arteries.”

When a clot forms in a vein it limits blood flow causing swelling and pain in parts of the body such as the legs, Dr Elahi said.

“The most common form is deep vein thrombosis, and one of the biggest problems is the clot dislodging from the leg and moving through the blood stream to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism which has a high mortality rate if remained untreated,” he explained.

A globe showing Europe, Africa and Asia is pictured on an illustration representation of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in Paris on April 24, 2020. (File photo: AFP)
A globe showing Europe, Africa and Asia is pictured on an illustration representation of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in Paris on April 24, 2020. (File photo: AFP)

Clots developing in arteries can lead to a heart attack or if reaching the brain, it has potent to lead to a stroke or blockages of other arteries.

Causes of blood clots vary between veins and arteries, but as with many medical complications, regular exercise and avoiding smoking are crucial.

For some people blood clots can happen when they have undergone surgery, or are injured rendering them immobile, making them prone to clot formation.

“Sometimes they have pre-existing conditions like history of blood clots, cancer, pregnancy, obesity or medications such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapies,” said Dr Elahi. “Smoking is also a major risk factor as well as heart and kidney failure.”

An arterial thrombosis has other risk factors and can affect people with diabetes or cholesterol problems smoking ageing and also lack of exercise.

“Venous thrombosis can be prevented by being a very active person which reduces the risk of blood clots especially in the lower parts of the body,” said Dr Elahi. “Avoid sitting for a long time, especially on planes or other long trips, and avoid wearing tight clothing.”

“If you have varicose veins use compression stockings.”

Quitting smoking and drinking more water on a daily basis can also help reduce the risk of blood clots, the doctor said.

Susceptibility to arterial thrombosis can be found in those with high blood pressure, Dr Elahi said, adding that it’s important for everyone to lose weight and exercise for 45 minutes a day, five days of the week.

“Include ginger, turmeric, vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids in your diet,” he said. This will reduce the risk of a clot formation.”

Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have stated that there are no casual links have been found of blood clots in people who have received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The EMA is investigating the reports.

Several countries have stopped using the vaccine until it is confirmed there are no links between the two.

Read more:

How worried should we be about reports of blood clots and AstraZeneca’s vaccine?

Here are the countries suspending AstraZeneca’s vaccine over blood clot concerns

India backs AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as cases soar