Clotting: What It Is And How It Occurs

Clotting is a necessary process that exists to help protect your body from bleeding too much after an injury. It is a complex mixture of different substances in the body that work to form a clot or a scab in the area of the injury. Clotting is often referred to as coagulation, which is the name of the process that leads to the formation of clots.

Clotting is when the platelets, or small cells in the blood, respond to an injury by sticking together. It is their way of containing the loss of blood from the weakened blood vessels. Fibrin, a type of protein, helps the platelets to form a mesh-like cocoon that surrounds the injury and thickens into a clot. The clot creates a barrier between the open wound and the rest of the body, allowing the body to heal without further injury.

The Process of Clotting

In order for clotting to occur, a few essential steps must occur in the correct order:

  • The endothelial lining of the blood vessels is somewhat damaged, allowing for the clotting process to begin.
  • Platelets come to the injured area and stick to each other and the damaged blood vessel walls.
  • Platelets release chemicals that interact with other cell constituents to produce thromboxanes and prostaglandins, hormones that send signals to the clotting system to trigger clotting factors.
  • Fibrinogen, a soluble form of fibrin, is converted into strands of fibrin by an enzyme called thrombin.
  • Fibrin strands interact with platelets, forming a mesh that attaches itself to the injured area.
  • Clotting factors from the body interact with the fibrin mesh to form clots for the injury.
  • Clots help seal the wound to prevent further blood loss.

Complications from Clotting

Sometimes the clotting process is so efficient that it forms clots even in places where injury isn’t present. This can lead to a number of conditions like a heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to diet and lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of clotting.

Treating clotting problems depends on the severity and underlying cause, so it is important to speak with your doctor if you're concerned about your clotting. In some cases, it may be necessary to take medication such as anticoagulants, or blood thinners, to prevent unwanted clotting.