Skip to Content

What is sticky blood?

Sticky blood, also known as hypercoagulability or thrombophilia, is a condition where the blood has an increased tendency to clot. This can lead to harmful blood clots forming in the veins or arteries.

What causes sticky blood?

There are several factors that can cause the blood to become overly sticky or prone to clotting:

Genetic factors

Some people are born with genetic mutations or variants that make their blood more likely to clot. Examples include:

– Factor V Leiden – A mutation in the factor V gene that makes factor V resistant to deactivation, leading to increased clotting. This is the most common inherited clotting disorder.

– Prothrombin gene mutation – A variant in the prothrombin (factor II) gene that increases levels of prothrombin and risk of clotting.

– Deficiencies in natural anticoagulants – People can be born with deficiencies in proteins that normally prevent clotting, like protein C, protein S, or antithrombin. This tilts the balance towards clotting.

Acquired factors

There are also some acquired medical conditions or lifestyle factors that can cause the blood to become stickier:

– Cancer – Certain cancers, especially those affecting the blood, bone marrow, or organs like the pancreas, can increase clotting risk. Cancer cells can release procoagulants and cytokines that shift the hemostatic balance.

– Pregnancy – The hormonal changes and increased blood volume during pregnancy increase the likelihood of developing blood clots. The risk is highest in the first 6 weeks after giving birth.

– Oral contraceptives – Estrogen in birth control pills can raise levels of clotting factors in the blood.

– Inflammatory diseases – Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, or lupus can promote clot formation through chronic inflammation.

– Recent surgery or trauma – The body’s clotting system gets activated after major surgery, serious injury, or burns to prevent bleeding, but this can tip the scales too far and cause clots.

– Prolonged immobility – Not moving for long periods of time, like during long flights or bedrest, can cause blood to pool and clot in the legs.

– Obesity – Excess fat cells produce higher levels of procoagulants.

– Smoking – Chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage blood vessels and cause the blood to become thicker.

Older age

As people get older, their blood tends to clot more easily. This may be due to developing other risk factors with age and the blood vessels and circulation becoming less efficient.

What are the symptoms of sticky blood?

In many cases, people with sticky blood do not have any symptoms unless an actual blood clot forms. Symptoms of a blood clot depend on the location:

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – Clots in the leg veins cause pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected leg.

Pulmonary embolism (PE) – Shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up blood, or collapse can occur if a DVT breaks off and travels to the lungs. This is life-threatening.

Stroke – Face drooping, arm weakness, speech issues and visual loss point to a clot in the brain.

Heart attack – Chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating can happen if a clot blocks an artery in the heart.

Mesenteric vein thrombosis – Abdominal pain after eating and gastrointestinal bleeding can occur if a clot affects the intestines.

Recurrent miscarriage – Some women who miscarry multiple times have an undiagnosed clotting disorder.

If a person has risk factors for sticky blood like a family history of clotting problems, the doctor may screen for potential issues even without symptoms present.

How is sticky blood diagnosed?

To determine if someone has hypercoagulability, the doctor will perform a clinical evaluation, look at the person’s risk factors, and order some laboratory tests, including:

Complete blood count (CBC) – Checks for platelet number and size which can influence clotting.

Prothrombin time (PT) – Measures how long it takes blood to clot. May be prolonged in some clotting disorders.

Activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) – Tests the intrinsic clotting pathway.

Fibrinogen level – High levels make blood stickier.

D-dimer – A breakdown product of fibrin indicating clot formation and breakdown. Levels are elevated when clots are being formed and broken down.

Clotting factor tests – Levels of factors like prothrombin, factor V Leiden, protein C, and antithrombin.

Genetic tests – To look for mutations associated with thrombophilia like Factor V Leiden, prothrombin mutations, etc.

Sometimes the doctor may also order imaging like an ultrasound to look for actual clots if DVT or PE is suspected.

What is the treatment for sticky blood?

Treatment focuses on preventing blood clots from forming and managing clotting risks. Options may include:

Anticoagulant medications

Medications that reduce blood clotting:

– Warfarin – Reduces vitamin K dependent clotting factors
– Heparin or low molecular weight heparin – Prevents clot extension and growth
– Direct oral anticoagulants like apixaban or rivaroxaban – Target specific clotting factors

Antiplatelet medications

Reduce platelet activation and aggregation:

– Aspirin
– Clopidogrel
– Dipyridamole

Compression stockings

Help blood flow in the legs and prevent pooling. Can also be pneumatic and pump air to improve flow.

Lifestyle changes

– Quit smoking
– Exercise regularly
– Maintain a healthy weight
– Stay hydrated
– Avoid long periods of immobility

Treatment is usually lifelong if there is an inherited thrombophilia. During high risk situations like surgery, trauma, or pregnancy, the intensity of treatment may be increased with measures like heparin bridges.

Are there complications from sticky blood?

Some potential complications that can arise from uncontrolled sticky blood include:

Deep vein thrombosis – A blood clot in the deep veins, usually of the leg. Can cause pain, swelling, and leg damage from blockage of blood flow. Pieces of the clot can break off and travel to the lungs.

Pulmonary embolism – A blood clot that travels to and blocks an artery in the lungs. This is life threatening and can cause heart failure or death if not treated urgently.

Stroke – A blood clot that blocks blood supply to part of the brain leads to cell death and brain damage. Strokes can be severely disabling.

Heart attack – The heart muscle is damaged when a clot cuts off blood flow to part of the heart. Can lead to lethal heart rhythm problems.

Recurrent pregnancy loss – Blood clots in the placenta can cause repeated miscarriages if sticky blood is not managed properly during pregnancy.

Clotting in prosthetic heart valves – People with artificial heart valves are at risk of clot formation on the valve surface which can block valve function.

Non-healing leg ulcers – Poor blood flow from repeated clots can lead to open sores that will not heal well.

The complications emphasize the importance of preventing clots through blood thinning treatments or anti-platelet medications if needed.

What is the prognosis for someone with sticky blood?

The outlook for people with thrombophilia depends on the specific condition and proper management:

– Many patients do very well if the sticky blood is identified early and treated to prevent clots from forming. They can maintain a good quality of life.

– Patients with strong inherited conditions like Factor V Leiden may require lifelong anticoagulation medications, but often handle these well under medical guidance.

– Acquired sticky blood related to short term risks like surgery, trauma or pregnancy can be managed with preventive short term anticoagulation.

– Complications like DVT, PE, stroke or heart attack have their own prognoses – but outcomes are better the sooner treatment can be started.

– Patients with clotting related to cancer or other serious illness tend to have worse outcomes.

By working closely with a hematologist experienced in blood clotting disorders, most patients with sticky blood can do well in the long term and avoid serious consequences. Screening family members can also identify issues early before complications arise.

What questions should I ask my doctor about sticky blood?

Important questions to ask the doctor about hypercoagulability include:

– What caused my blood to become overly sticky in my case?

– Do I have an inherited clotting disorder or acquired risk factors?

– What tests should I have to determine the cause?

– What are my risks of developing a serious clot?

– Do I need to be on blood thinning medication – which one and for how long?

– How will you monitor if my treatment is working?

– What side effects should I watch out for with treatment?

– What symptoms would need urgent emergency care?

– How will sticky blood affect my ability to have surgery or get pregnant?

– Are any of my family members at risk and need screening?

– Will I need to be on lifelong anticoagulation or will treatment be temporary?

– How often should I follow up to ensure my clotting stays under control?

Finding out as much as possible about your specific hypercoagulability condition and risks can help guide prevention and safe management. Ongoing monitoring and care from a hematology specialist is important.


Sticky blood or hypercoagulability is a condition where the blood clots too easily, creating a higher risk for harmful clot formation. It can be inherited or acquired through things like lifestyle factors, medications, pregnancy, and medical illnesses. Symptoms are usually only seen if an actual blood clot develops causing issues like DVT, PE, stroke or heart attack. Diagnosis involves blood tests looking for genetic and clotting factor abnormalities. Treatment focuses on “blood thinning” with anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications to prevent clotting complications. With proper management under guidance of a hematologist, most patients with sticky blood can do well long term and avoid serious consequences like stroke, PE, or embolism to the heart or lungs. Monitoring clotting status and modifying treatment intensity during higher risk situations like surgery or trauma can improve outcomes. Patients benefit from learning about sticky blood and collaborating closely with their medical team.