Causes of Blood Clots in the Hand

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  • 0:00 Blood and the…
  • 0:27 Blood Clots
  • 1:29 Thrombocythemia
  • 2:36 Superficial Thrombophlebitis
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

In this lesson, we will learn what a blood clot is and what causes blood clots to form in the hand. We will also look at treatment options that may be indicated.

Blood and the Circulatory System

Have you ever thought about the blood in your body? It's something that most people take for granted. Blood has to flow continuously and smoothly throughout your body for your entire life! However, it also needs to stop bleeding quickly if you experience a cut or injury. Blood clots are healthy and lifesaving if they stop bleeding, but sometimes blood clots can cause medical problems.

Blood Clots

So how does blood clot? Platelets are one component of blood. If a blood vessel is damaged, such as in a cut, the platelets are activated and start sticking to each other and the blood vessel wall to prevent blood from leaking out of the damaged vessel. When platelets are activated, they release chemicals which continue the steps in clotting.

A blood clot
A Blood Clot

There are also several clotting factors in your blood that create fibrin, a protein that tangles up with platelets to create an even bigger clot. The clot is now stronger. Additional clotting factors also help prevent the clot from growing any larger than is necessary. As the damaged tissue begins to heal, you no longer need clotting to prevent blood from leaking from the vessel. The fibrin starts dissolving, and the platelets and cells go back to work in the blood.

Blood clots can occur in many areas. If one forms in the heart, it can cause an obstruction resulting in a heart attack. If a blood clot occurs in the brain, it can cause a stroke. It's less common to hear about a blood clot in the hand, so how does that happen?

Thrombocythemia

Thrombocythemia and thrombocytosis are both disorders that involve an abnormally large amount of platelets in the blood. Oftentimes, a person with one of these conditions exhibits no signs or symptoms but is diagnosed after having routine blood work done.

The diagnosis of thrombocythemia is made when the cause for the high platelet count is unknown. This is also called primary or essential thrombocythemia. When the high platelet count is caused by an underlying condition, such as an infection, it is called thrombocytosis or secondary thrombocythemia.

Both of these disorders cause issues with blood clots and bleeding. The blood clots most frequently occur in the brain, hands, and feet. If clots appear in the very small blood vessels of the hands, the vessels often feel numb and appear red. There may also be an intense burning sensation and a throbbing pain on the palms of the hands.

Treatment for thrombocythemia and thrombocytosis may not be needed if the person is not experiencing any signs or symptoms. If indicated, a doctor may advise daily use of aspirin. Certain prescription medications can be administered to treat a high platelet count.

Superficial Thrombophlebitis

More commonly, blood clots in the hand may be due to superficial thrombophlebitis. Thrombophlebitis is inflammation of a vein due to a blood clot. This could result from an injury to the vein after having an IV line put in place. Some people are at higher risk for thrombophlebitis, and this occurs for no known reason.

Thrombophlebitis can result from a needle injuring a vein
IV

People are at higher risk for superficial thrombophlebitis if they experience a chemical irritation, have a disorder involving increased blood clotting, or have an infection. If a woman is pregnant or taking birth control pills, she is also at a higher risk for blood clots and superficial thrombophlebitis. Other risk factors for blood clots include decreased mobility and the presence of varicose veins.

Someone experiencing superficial thrombophlebitis to the hand may have redness, inflammation, tenderness, or pain in the area. It may feel warm and hard, and the person may also experience pain in their arm.

Treatment includes reducing pain and swelling and preventing complications. The doctor may recommend elevating the arm and applying a warm compress to the area. If an IV was in place, it will likely be removed if it's believed to be causing the thrombophlebitis. Medications may also be used to help control pain and swelling.

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