When you are injured, proteins in the blood that form blood clots travel to the injury site to help stop bleeding. If you have DIC, these proteins become abnormally active throughout the body. This may be due to inflammation, infection, or cancer.
Small blood clots form in the blood vessels. Some of these clots can clog the vessels and cut off blood supply to organs such as the liver, brain, or kidneys. Lack of blood flow can damage the organ and it may stop working properly.
Over time, the clotting proteins in your blood are consumed or "used up." When this happens, you have a high risk of serious bleeding, even from a minor injury or without injury. You may also have bleeding that starts spontaneously (on its own). The disease can also cause healthy red blood cells to break up when they travel through the small vessels that are filled with clots.
Risk factors for DIC include:
- Blood transfusion reaction
- Cancer, especially certain types of leukemia
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Infection in the blood, especially by bacteria or fungus
- Liver disease
- Pregnancy complications (such as placenta that is left behind after delivery)
- Recent surgery or anesthesia
- Severe tissue injury (as in burns and head injury)
- Large hemangioma (a blood vessel that is not formed properly)