What is Hypercoagulability and How to Spot It?

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
September 23, 2022

Blood clot disorders are relatively rare but can create serious health problems if left untreated. Hypercoagulability refers to the body’s tendency to make a person’s blood form clots too quickly. Hypercoagulabilty is also known as a hypercoagulable state or thrombophilia. When we get a cut, scrape, or other laceration, our body stops the bleeding by forming a clot. A clot forms when proteins produced in the liver stick to platelets in your blood, essentially turning it from a liquid into a gel-like formation. This process is called coagulation. Normal coagulation is critical  for stopping a bleed and beginning the healing process. In some cases, the body will create too much clotting and may interfere with proper, unrestricted blood flow throughout the circulatory system. 

When blood clots develop within blood vessels, it creates serious problems. Individuals who have a blood clot condition, or who are in a hypercoagulable state, are at increased risk of developing potentially life-threatening health conditions. These are called thromboembolic events and include deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).Individuals who have cardiac events have an increase rate to develop DVTs and PEs.

Deep vein thrombosis is a clot that forms in a deep vein of the lower limbs. Some people are asymptomatic , however others experience the following symptoms:

  • Sudden leg swelling
  • Pain when standing or walking
  • Warmth in the affected area 
  • Enlarged or swollen veins
  • Skin discoloration at the site of the clot (can appear reddish or blue/purple)

DVT can be a serious health concern since  venous blood clots can break off and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. If PE is not caught quickly and treated, it can be fatal. Signs of pulmonary embolism include:

  • Sudden onset of shortness of breath
  • Chest pain 
  • Dizziness, lightheaded, or fainting 
  • Coughing up blood
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Perfume sweating 

Typically, developing blood clots is a good thing. It ensures that the body works  to heal lacerations and injuries to the skin. However, if you have hypercoagulability, blood clots can be life-threatening. It’s critical to seek medical attention if you have any symptoms of a blood clotting disorder. 

Hypercoagulation Categories

Hypercoagulable states fall into two  primary categories: Genetic (inherited from parents) or Acquired (typically through surgery, trauma, medications, or underlying medical conditions).

The genetic form of hypercoagulation means a person is born with an overactive tendency to form blood clots. Inherited disorders include: 

  • Factor V Leiden ( most common)
  • Prothrombin gene mutation (G20210A)
  • Deficiencies of natural proteins that prevent clotting (i.e. antithrombin, protein C, and protein S)
  • Elevated levels of fibrinogen or dysfunctional fibrinogen
  • High levels of factor VIII and other factors, such as  factor IX and XI
  • Abnormal fibrinolytic system

An acquired form of hypercoagulation is related to non-genetic factors that increase your risk of thrombosis. Some of these factors include: 

  • Cancer (one of the most common)
  • Certain cancer medications 
  • Recent trauma or surgery
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Oral contraceptive pills 
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Sedentary lifestyles 
  • Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia 
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome

However, you can control these factors  with lifestyle modifications; some  require medical intervention from a healthcare professional. 

Hypercoagulable States & Treatment Options

Hypercoagulable states often use anticoagulant medications. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about the benefits and risks of these medications and help you determine the best course of treatment. 

At South Valley Vascular, our team of experts has the technology and drive to get you back to doing the activities you enjoy. If you have questions about blood clot disorders or are interested in a consultation, our specialists are here to help so contact us!