What does "thick blood" mean and is it dangerous

Everyone knows that blood is a liquid substance that fills the vessels of our organisms. But sometimes you can hear such a seemingly strange phrase as "thick blood." What does it mean? Some time ago, in the countries of the post-Soviet space, it was very fashionable to “treat” blood clots with the help of leeches. At the same time, such patients often did not understand what thick blood really is, whether such a condition is dangerous and how to properly treat it. Many misconceptions regarding this issue are common in our time.

What is “thick blood”

increased blood viscosity or hypercoagulable syndrome. Such a condition in medicine is considered as a deviation from the norm, which can be facilitated by various factors. But in order to perfectly understand what hypercoagulation syndrome is, it is necessary to have an idea about the composition of the blood.

So, blood consists of the following components:

  • cellular part (erythrocytes, platelets, leukocytes);
  • non-cellular part (plasma, it is also a liquid component);
  • ions of macro- and microelements, hormones, enzymes and other substances that are carried by the blood throughout the body.

Each of these components is vital to humans. But it is equally important that all components of the blood maintain a certain balance. And such a characteristic as blood viscosity is nothing more than the ratio between plasma and cell mass. If this balance is disturbed, the blood either becomes too thin or thickens. For example, when the body lacks erythrocytes (red blood cells), they speak of anemia (the term “anemia” was previously used), because. the blood becomes unnaturally thin. The opposite effect occurs when there are too many red blood cells. But not only this is the cause of thickening of the blood.

Causes of “thick blood”

Speaking in the language of specialists, blood clotting leads to deterioration of its rheological properties. That is, the blood flows more slowly and more difficult. It can become thicker for various reasons. As a rule, such a condition is accompanied by:

  • impaired hematocrit;
  • increased hemoglobin;
  • an increase in the number of red blood cells;
  • decreased elasticity of erythrocytes and their deformation;
  • aggregation (gluing) of erythrocytes;
  • acceleration of blood clotting (due to an increase in the amount of fibrinogen);
  • an increase in paraproteins (specific proteins that appear in plasma in myeloma).

Common causes of blood clotting:

  1. Coagulopathy. This is a group of diseases in which there is a violation of blood clotting. These include autoimmune, genetic and coagulopathy of toxic origin.
  2. Liver diseases. The liver is involved in the production of proteins responsible for blood clotting. And some diseases can increase or decrease the synthesis of these substances, which affects blood viscosity.
  3. ​​
  4. Oncological diseases. Malignant blood diseases cause an imbalance between plasma and cellular constituent blood.
  5. Dehydration. There can be many reasons leading to dehydration. The most banal is the insufficient consumption of water. Also leading to dehydration are diarrhea, severe and prolonged vomiting, taking diuretics, and poor absorption of water by the body. But regardless of the reason, the result is always the same - the substance in the vessels becomes thicker.

What contributes to thickening

Hyperviscosity syndrome can manifest itself as a hereditary genetic disease. As a rule, such people have a tendency to more active thrombosis. More often, hypercoagulation syndrome is secondary, that is, it develops under the influence of external or internal factors.

Risk factors:

  1. Aging. As people age, blood vessels become stiffer and more calcified, making it harder for blood to move through them. Upon reaching the age of 50, it is recommended to monitor the rheology of the blood, and for this purpose, drugs are prescribed that support its fluidity.
  2. Overweight. Obesity is accompanied by a violation of metabolic processes in the body, due to which the blood can become more viscous, and atherosclerotic changes are observed in the vessels.
  3. High cholesterol. Lipoproteins always increase the proportion of the thick component.
  4. Smoking. The composition of cigarette smoke contains substances that increase the risk of thrombosis and affect the density of the substance in the vessels.
  5. Alcohol abuse. Alcoholic drinks contribute to rapid and severe dehydration of the body. Scientists have calculated that the ratio of drunk alcohol and the liquid that it removed from the body is 1: 4. Therefore, if the hydrobalance is not restored in time, the proportion of the liquid part in the vessels decreases.
  6. Bed rest for a long time. Postoperative, as well as some health problems, can force a person to stay in bed. Over time, inactivity leads to impaired blood flow and stagnation of blood, which ultimately causes its thickening.
  7. Severe hypothermia or burns. Extreme temperature effects lead to severe stress, dehydration, impaired hematopoiesis function, which also increases the risk of hypercoagulation syndrome.
  8. Organ transplantation, vascular surgery or injury, installation of implants (valves, dialysis shunts, venous catheters, etc.). Any impact on the heart or vessel walls leads to the formation of irregularities, and this increases the risk of increased blood clots.
  9. Inflammation. Any inflammatory process, especially if it is chronic, provokes an increase in the number of leukocytes, fibrinogen, proteins and cholesterol. When there are a lot of these components, the blood becomes viscous.
  10. Physical inactivity. This term experts call a sedentary lifestyle. The causes of thickening in sedentary people are associated primarily with impaired blood flow in the vessels.
  11. Taking hormonal contraceptives. Hormone-based drugs often lead to increased thrombus formation, which changes the density of the substance in the vessels.
  12. Pregnancy. As the fetus matures, the uterus increases in size and compresses the vessels of the small pelvis. This leads to stagnation of blood and excessive formation of blood clots.
  13. Toxin poisoning. Poor ecology, eating food contaminated with heavy metals, radiation can also contribute to hyperviscosity syndrome.
  14. Microorganisms. Most diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and some parasites are accompanied by fever and the accumulation of toxic substances in the body. And this is another factor that causes thickening of fluid in the veins. The degree of thickening depends on the nature and intensity of exposure to the toxin or parasite.
  15. Stress. During stress, the body releases hormones that cause vasoconstriction, which slows down blood circulation. If the stressful condition is chronic, the blood tends to thicken.

Who is at risk

Any of the above factors can cause blood clots. But also at increased risk are people suffering from such diseases:

  • hepatitis;
  • cirrhosis of the liver;
  • pancreatitis;
  • food poisoning;
  • varicose veins;
  • hypoxia;
  • myocardial infarction;
  • thrombophilia;
  • atrial fibrillation;
  • heart failure;
  • stroke;
  • diabetes ;
  • antiphospholipid antibody syndrome;
  • amyloid degeneration;
  • leukemia;
  • myeloma;
  • bone marrow cancer;
  • polycythemia;
  • adrenal dysfunction.

Long-term use of diuretics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and drugs containing estrogen or phytoestrogen contributes to the development of hypercoagulable syndrome.

Why thickening is dangerous

Often, blood viscosity increases in pregnant women. In this case, this process plays a natural role of protection against possible bleeding and miscarriage. Also, the fluid in the vessels in women becomes thicker immediately before childbirth. So nature protects the expectant mother from severe blood loss. But excessive thickening during pregnancy can be dangerous both for a woman (it contributes to thrombosis, thrombophilia, varicose veins, leukemia) and for the fetus (the vascular bed is damaged).

As for newborns, their blood is much thicker than that of adults. But that shouldn't be a concern. The baby needs time to adjust to life in a new environment. In the first hours after birth, hemoglobin in the baby's body can reach 200 g / l. But already in the first few days of life, these numbers will begin to decline. Almost half of the hemoglobin will be destroyed on the first day and the density of the blood in the baby will decrease.

Another thing is adults whose blood has become thick for various reasons. They should not wait for the indicators to return to normal on their own. This condition can be hazardous to health.

Thickening is often accompanied by increased formation of blood clots, which can clog vessels, preventing normal blood flow. If a blood clot clogs a vessel in the heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke can occur, possibly fatal.

If the substance becomes viscous, but the number of platelets decreases, this condition leads to circulatory disorders in the body and increases the risk of bleeding. In some cases, hypercoagulable syndrome against the background of a reduced platelet count is a symptom of an oncological disease.

If hyperviscosity is not treated, this condition can lead to hyperosmolar coma and intracerebral bleeding, which has a high risk of death.

How to determine the “thickness” of blood

To measure the clotting, specialists use a device - a viscometer. It measures the speed of movement of the substance in the vessels, and then compares this figure with the speed of movement of distilled water. For measurement, blood and water are taken in the same quantities at the same temperature.

It is considered normal if blood flows 4-5 times slower than water, and its relative density (depending on the number of erythrocytes) remains within 1.050-1.064 g/cm3. This value determines the amount of salts, proteins and formed elements in the plasma.

Hematocrit (the volume of red blood cells in 1 liter of blood) differs depending on gender and age. For women, 37-47% is considered the norm, for men - 40-54%, for newborns - about 20% more than in adults, and 10% more than in older children.

As for directly laboratory indicators of viscosity, the norm is considered to be from 4 to 5.5. This parameter directly depends on the number of erythrocytes in plasma: the more of them, the stronger the viscosity.

In addition to the viscometer, immunoelectrophoresis (determines which proteins are in the plasma) and immunochemical study (counts the amount of proteins) are also used to diagnose blood clots.

External signs of thickening

The most accurate indicators of this condition can only be determined by laboratory analysis. Nevertheless, there are a huge number of signs that may indirectly indicate that the fluid in the vessels flows more slowly.

People with increased blood viscosity may experience the following symptoms:

  • aching headaches;
  • pre-syncope;
  • dizziness with loss of coordination;
  • fatigue;
  • drowsiness;
  • cuts bleed unnaturally slowly;
  • muscle weakness ;
  • heaviness and pain in the legs;
  • tingling, numbness, burning, tingling in the legs and arms (paresthesia);
  • tinnitus ;
  • increased sensitivity to low temperatures;
  • dry skin ;
  • cyanosis (cyanosis) of certain areas of the skin, mucous membranes of the mouth and eyelids;
  • increased anxiety;
  • sleep disorders;
  • tendency to depressive states;
  • constipation.

Often, hyperviscosity syndrome occurs in parallel with chronic fatigue, candidiasis, or irritable bowel syndrome.

How to treat

If signs appear that indicate a possible thickening, it is necessary to consult a general practitioner. In such cases, the patient is advised to start with a laboratory test, and then, if necessary, consult a hematologist, endocrinologist, hepatologist or other highly specialized specialist. Only after finding out the causes of the disease, the patient is prescribed a treatment program for blood thinning.

Blood-thinning products

Traditional medicine usually uses heparin or aspirin. But it has long been known that acetylsalicylic acid brings not only benefits to the body, but also harm. Most of all, aspirin "gets" the stomach: after a long course of treatment, gastritis may begin or even ulcers open. Therefore, to thin the fluid in the vessels , herbalists and traditional medicine advise using natural sources of aspirin. For example, a decoction of blackcurrant and raspberry leaves.

If the laboratory test indicates a blood clot, you should reconsider your diet. Such people should first of all limit their intake of foods rich in vitamin K : spinach, lettuce and other greens. But fatty sea fish, on the contrary, is useful to eat as often as possible. The fish oil and Omega-3 acids contained in it contribute to the resorption of blood clots and sclerotic plaques, which makes the substance in the vessels more liquid.

It is also useful for hypercoagulable syndrome to consume foods with iodine, especially seaweed. This mineral also helps to reduce viscosity, but in addition, it also strengthens blood vessels. A highly beneficial taurine found in marine fish, seafood, walnuts and almonds. It dilutes the fluid in the vessels and normalizes its pressure.

Other useful foods:

If the patient is already taking special drugs for the disease, then the above products should be used with extreme caution.

Thick blood can cause various disorders in the body, many of which are fatal. Therefore, at the first alarming symptoms, you should seek the advice of a doctor and undergo an examination.