Blood clotting is a normal bodily function. It is how the body responds to damaged arteries and veins or broken blood vessels. Blood cells and fibrin strands seek out the leak and pile up around it, giving the damage time to heal. While normal clotting is part of the healing process, abnormal development of clots are not and can be caused by trauma, obesity, genetics, and prolonged use of contraceptives.
Coagulation, which is the term used to describe blood clotting, is an important function. A lack in or delay of coagulation is life threatening, particularly from the increased risk of bleeding to death as a result of cuts or major injuries. Hypercoagulation can also be life threatening when too many clots form or travel to other locations.
Excessive coagulation occurs when the fibrin strands, platelets, and blood cells form more easily than normal or do not break up properly. When this happens, blood flow is impeded. If the clots remain, damage to organs can occur.
The two types of classifications to describe the abnormal formation of blood clots are genetic or acquired. Genetic causes are rarer than the acquired ones. Acquired clots rely on triggers to cause blood clotting. Any condition that causes damage to blood vessels, such as atherosclerosis, can lead to blood clot formation.
Genetic causes for coagulation often result in a slow dissolution of clots or an abnormally high occurrence of clotting. Many genetic defects cause problems with the proteins that are part of the clotting process. There can also be genetic abnormalities in the breakdown of existing clots.
Two disorders are more common. Thrombophilia and hemophilia are more two conditions that cause problems with coagulation. Despite confusion about these conditions, they are quite different.
Thrombophilia can be acquired or genetic, and causes excessive coagulation. Clots form and can cause a blockage, but can also break loose and travel through the bloodstream. The traveling blood clots will frequently become lodged in smaller blood vessels. If the clots travel to major organs, damage can occur.
Hemophilia is basically the opposite of thrombophilia. This condition causes excessive bleeding. Blood clotting is either non-existent or extremely delayed. Even a small cut can be dangerous. People with hemophilia are at a higher risk of developing internal bleeding. The lack of clotting abilities allows blood from even the smallest of cuts to bleed profusely.