Blood clotting is a natural process that occurs in response to injury as a way to slow and stop bleeding. But in some cases, blood clotting disorders develop, making the body unable to manage and control blood clots.
However, if someone has a clotting disorder, then the blood may end up not clotting enough, leading to too much bleeding. Blood may also clot too much, leading to dangerous clots in the body.
If you’re hypothyroid, are you at risk of clotting disorders? In this article, we’ll look at the demonstrated association between hypothyroidism, blood clots, and clotting disorders.
In this article
A blood clot, also known as a thrombus, is a gel-like mass that forms in your blood vessels and obstructs the normal flow of blood. A blood clot is considered a natural body response to prevent excessive bleeding when a blood vessel is damaged or to help heal wounds.
Blood clots typically form in the veins, and their symptoms depend on the location of the clot.
It is generally rare for blood clots to form in the arteries, but when they do, they can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular events.
Blood clots can become problematic when they form inappropriately and obstruct blood flow in vital areas of the body, such as the heart, lungs, or brain. This can lead to serious health complications such as heart attacks or strokes.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the body’s deep veins, typically in the legs. This can be caused by factors such as prolonged immobility, surgery, or certain medical conditions. DVT can result in swelling, pain or tenderness, skin warm to the touch, and redness or discoloration of the skin. DVT is also sometimes referred to as venous thrombosis.
If a DVT-triggered clot dislodges and travels to the lungs, the condition is known as pulmonary embolism (PE) or pulmonary thromboembolism. A PE can result in difficulty breathing, chest pain that worsens with deep breaths, coughing or coughing up blood, and a faster-than-normal or irregular heartbeat.
Both DVT and PE are part of a serious medical condition called venous thromboembolism (VTE) that requires immediate attention.
The risk of thrombotic events is elevated in people who have a blood clotting disorder, also known as a coagulation disorder. In these conditions, there’s an abnormality in the body’s ability to form blood clots or control bleeding. In individuals with a blood clotting disorder, the normal process of clotting after injury is disrupted, leading to excessive bleeding, the formation of abnormal blood clots, and serious thrombotic events.
There are several different clotting disorders, each with its own unique characteristics and effects on the body. These various disorders are usually acquired due to another illness or injury; in some cases, an inherited or genetic blood clotting disorder. Several common clotting disorders include:
- Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is an autoimmune disease where the body mistakenly produces antibodies that attack phospholipids, leading to an increased risk of blood clots.
- Hemophilia is a rare genetic condition that impairs the body’s ability to clot blood. People with hemophilia may experience excessive bleeding and bruising, even from minor injuries.
- Thrombophilia is a group of conditions that increase the risk of excessive blood clotting. This can lead to complications such as heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism.
Various factors contribute to the risk profile of someone being more or less prone to blood clotting disorders. These fall into categories such as genetic, pre-existing conditions, pregnancy, and other lifestyle factors.
Genetic predispositions, such as inherited mutations in clotting factors or deficiencies in anticoagulant proteins, significantly elevate the risk of abnormal blood clot formation. The more common inherited disorders include Factor V Leiden mutation, which occurs in 5% of people of European descent, and Prothrombin G20210A mutation, which occurs in 2% of the population.
Age also serves as a possible risk factor for disorders. They can be diagnosed early in childhood but are often found in teens and young adults. Of course, the likelihood of developing blood clotting disorders tends to increase with age.
Having other medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, or hypertension, can further increase the risk of developing blood clotting disorders. Cancer happens to be one of the most important risk factors for developing blood clotting disorders such as venous thromboembolism. Some studies have shown that each year, 20% of VTE cases occur in patients with cancer.
Pregnancy also poses a risk factor, with VTE remaining as one of the major causes of maternal mortality worldwide. Especially for pregnant women who are instructed to stay on bed rest, there is an added risk of developing blood clots because they are not as active or mobile.
A rapid diagnosis of blood clotting disorders is vital because early diagnosis results in timely intervention. Individuals with clotting disorders need to work closely with healthcare professionals to manage their condition and reduce the risk of complications. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner healthcare professionals can begin implementing specific treatments and preventive measures to help reduce the risk of severe complications.
Various tests are done in a clinical setting to diagnose someone with a blood clotting disorder. These tests include:
- Complete blood count or CBC - measures the size and number of red and white blood cells and platelets
- D dimer - determines if the body is making or breaking down clots
- Genetic testing
- Deficient testing - such as antithrombin, a substance in the blood that limits the blood’s ability to clot
- Kidney and liver function testing - these tests help determine if either organ is damaged or if there are any signs of existing disease
- Doppler ultrasound - unlike a regular ultrasound, this test is used to estimate the blood flow through the blood vessels by bouncing high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) off circulating red blood cells
- Angiogram - a scan that shows blood flow through the arteries or veins
The thyroid gland continues to become a subject of interest and fascination because of how the levels of thyroid hormone influence nearly every system in the body, including blood clotting.
In patients with an underactive thyroid, elevated levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) can lead to an increase in the production of clotting factors in the blood. This increased level of clotting factors can lead to an increased risk of developing blood clots in hypothyroid patients.
Both hypocoagulation (less ability to coagulate, increasing the risk of bleeding) and hypercoagulation (too much coagulation, increasing the risk of clots) have been reported in patients with hypothyroidism and appear to correlate with thyroid hormone levels.
Specifically, hypothyroid patients are at greater risk of developing thrombophilia and hypercoagulability, also known as a hypercoagulable state. Those with hypothyroidism are also at an increased risk of developing bleeding complications due to impaired coagulation (blood clotting) and fibrinolysis (breakdown of blood clots). This is especially important for someone with hypothyroidism to consider should they choose to go under an invasive surgical procedure.
Beyond blood clotting, overt hypothyroidism can also impact blood viscosity, which is vital for optimal blood flow. When this happens, changes can occur that result in thicker blood consistency, which impairs the smooth circulation of blood through the vessels and can potentially lead to an excess in clot formation.
Hypothyroid individuals need to be aware of their elevated risk of blood clotting disorders and undergo regular monitoring by their healthcare providers. Practitioners may prescribe medications to help reduce the risk of blood clots or recommend specific lifestyle changes such as staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding long periods of immobility.
Addressing the risk of blood clotting disorders, especially for those with hypothyroidism, involves preventive measures, lifestyle adjustments, and consistency with checkups and medical management.
Nutrition and dietary changes
Nutrition continues to play a pivotal part in improving overall health and well-being. Focus on incorporating foods that support the cardiovascular system and promote optimal blood circulation. These include red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the risk of abnormal clot formation. Foods include fatty fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, avocados, and olive oil. Maintaining optimal water intake and hydration is crucial because it can help prevent thick blood viscosity and encourage a smooth blood flow.
Physical activity and regular exercise
Activities encouraging cardiovascular health, such as brisk walking, biking, or swimming, will enhance blood circulation and thus help regulate clotting factors. Regular exercise also helps support overall metabolic health, which is a cornerstone for those with hypothyroidism and thyroid disease.
Medication and medical adherence
If your doctor recommends that you be on thyroid hormone medication to manage your clinical hypothyroidism or prescribes other medications to reduce the risk of a blood coagulation or clotting disorder, it’s essential to take this seriously. Routine and regular checkups with your doctor or healthcare provider are also essential to monitor thyroid function, maintain normal levels, and assess clotting parameters if and when needed. Staying on schedule with your visits will also enable earlier detection of any imbalances and allow more timely adjustments to your treatment plan.
We know that it might be scary to read about risk factors associated with hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroid diseases, but it is also important to be aware. The good news is that being well-informed sets you up for success to maintain a healthy and thriving well-being. All we have discussed will help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, optimize blood flow, and minimize the risk of complications such as thrombosis events associated with blood clot formation. If you seek additional guidance or support or feel that you might be at risk for developing a blood clotting disorder, consider working with Paloma Health. Our doctors are readily available to help patients understand their unique condition.