Senator John McCain’s recent blood clot removal and diagnosis of brain cancer has many people wondering about blood clots in the brain and how serious they may be. While Senator McCain’s blood clot was a sign of a much more serious problem, sometimes blood clots are easy to treat and the person is restored to health. Since blood clots are common in people over the age of 50, family caregivers and home care providers should be on the lookout for symptoms.
Blood Clot Basics
Clotting is a natural and necessary process that the body uses to seal wounds. When you cut yourself, your blood thickens and forms a clot to stop the bleeding. Once the wound is healed and the danger is over, the clot usually breaks up. However, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Blood clots can appear in any blood vessel throughout the entire body, including in the head, as was the case with Senator McCain. Blood clots can keep blood, and thus the oxygen carried in the blood, from travelling to all areas of the body. Depending on where a blood clot forms, it can create a medical emergency, such as a stroke or heart attack. A blood clot that forms in the brain may put pressure on the brain, causing symptoms like disorientation. In more serious cases, a blood clot in the brain can cause coma or death.
Older adults are at a higher risk for a type of blood clot in the brain called a subdural hematoma. A subdural hematoma occurs when blood pools between layers of tissue that encase the brain. They are usually caused by an injury to the head. As people age, their brains naturally get smaller, making the blood vessels that run from the skull to the brain more susceptible to injury. People who take blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder are at an even higher risk.
Signs of a Blood Clot in the Brain
Sometimes there are no symptoms of a blood clot and they are found during testing for other problems. Other times, a person with a subdural hematoma may experience some of the following signs and symptoms:
- Weakness on one side of the body
- Trouble speaking
- Behavior changes
Treating a Subdural Hematoma
How doctors treat a subdural hematoma depends on how serious the clot is. In some cases, no treatment is needed. Doctors simply take a “watch and wait” approach, actively monitoring the clot until it resolves on its own. In other cases, surgery may be needed to remove the clot.
If your parent shows signs of a blood clot in the brain, it’s important to seek medical treatment to determine the next steps. In cases where surgery is warranted, a home care provider hired through an agency can help take care of your parent once they return home. Having a home care provider visit your parent’s home during the day can help ensure they are able to rest during recovery and give you peace of mind knowing that they are safe.
If you or an aging family member are considering home care in Fairbanks, AK, please contact the caring staff at TLC Home Care today. (907) 336-CARE