The life cycle of a normal blood clot depends on a series of chemical interactions.
1. Platelets form a plug. Tiny bits in your blood called platelets get “turned on” by triggers released when a blood vessel is damaged. They stick to the walls in the area and each other, changing shape to form a plug that fills in the broken part to stop blood from leaking out.
When activated, platelets also release chemicals to attract more platelets and other cells, and to set off the next step.
2. The clot grows. Proteins in your blood called clotting factors signal each other to cause a rapid chain reaction. It ends with a dissolved substance in your blood turning into long strands of fibrin. These get tangled up with the platelets in the plug to create a net that traps even more platelets and cells. The clot becomes much tougher and more durable.
3. Reactions stop its growth. Other proteins offset extra clotting factor proteins so the clot doesn’t spread farther than it needs to.
4. Your body slowly breaks it down. As the damaged tissue heals, you don’t need the clot anymore. The tough fibrin strands dissolve, and your blood takes back the platelets and cells of the clot.