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Blood Clots Part 2: What Causes Blood Clots Anyway?

Blood clots show that platelets are doing their job

Sometimes, accidents happen during Christmas season. You may cut your finger open when preparing a holiday meal. However, you know that if you are a healthy individual, the cut will form a blood clot and start to heal on its own, even without medical care from your local urgent care center.

When a patient discusses tissues, organs and organ systems, often they forget that blood is a vital tissue as well. Blood consists of three cells which circulate in plasma: white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Blood clots rely on a blood cell known as a platelet. Platelets are fragments from a bone marrow cell, and they are responsible for the human body’s most basic injury care function: closing the skin to keep from bleeding excessively and to keep pathogens out of the body.

Platelets are the key component to coagulation, aka thickening the blood in places where blood and oxygen meet. Additionally, platelets present bleeding when the skin is not broken because they prevent blood leakage in capillaries (the smallest blood vessels). This function- regulating bleeding- is why platelets are critical to human survival.

What happens when the skin gets injured?

Superficial blood clotting occurs in stages:

  1. In the first stage, a substance called collagen comes into contact with blood and the damaged cells release a substance called phospholipids.
  2. In the second stage, platelets circulating in the damaged area stick to the collagen and form what is charmingly called, “a platelet plug.” This “plug” forms the initial barrier to stop external bleeding.
  3. Plasma proteins start a series of chemical reactions with the platelet’s enzymes to create a substance called prothrombin, an early coagulation factor.
  4. Once prothrombin is created, another enzyme reaction leads to the creation of the enzyme thrombin/thrombase. Thrombin sets the stage to create the blood clot.
  5. With thrombin in place, a substance in blood plasma called fibrinogen creates another enzyme reaction to form fibrin. It is insoluble, meaning it don’t dissolve in water. The “blood clot” that we are familiar with that forms on our skin and stays there until it calls off is in the fibrin stage.

The human body’s processes for injury care have more stages than most non-medical professionals are aware of. Any defects at any of these clotting stages- like Von Willebrand’s disease or hemophilia- should be treated by a Hematologist (a doctor who specializes in blood disorders). However, for minor emergencies like large lacerations that happened when you fell off the ladder when hanging Christmas lights, see your local urgent care center in Houston to help your body with what it already does best.

-Carolyn A. Medrano

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