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1 in 4 people worldwide are dying from conditions related to thrombosis. About 900,000 people in the US suffer from thrombosis; about 100,000 die from thrombosis. This has a higher mortality rate than those of breast cancer, AIDS and motor vehicles combined-

What is thrombosis?


Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot (embolus) within a vessel. It can form either in an artery or a vein. The blood clot can either form spontaneously or as part of hemostasis.

Types of thrombosis

  • Venous thrombosis (VT): The most common type is deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT. This occurs when a clot forms in large veins in legs. If the clot breaks off it can go on to block arteries and the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism is the blockage of the pulmonary artery.
  • Arterial thrombosis: This form of thrombosis is linked to atherosclerosis(a plaque), where it occludes blood flow and causes stasis of the blood.  

Risk factors


Some risk factors are not acquired such as;

  • Family history
  • Being inactive for long periods of time e.g. long-haul flights

Whereas some risk factors are acquired such as;

  • Oral contraceptive pill
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Cancer

Sign & symptoms

Awareness Days
  • VT: Pain, swelling, redness in the affected area in the leg
  • DVT: Most cases only cause pain, without a change in color and swelling
  • PE: If DVT is not treated, a pulmonary embolism occurs. The most common symptoms are:
    • Shortness of breath that comes suddenly 
    • Pain in your chest when breathing 
    • Coughing up blood
    • a bluish tinge to your skin (cyanosis)
    • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
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Most acquired risk factors are modifiable via simple lifestyle changes.

  • Prevent long periods of stasis; walking during flights, hospitalization, as this gets your blood flowing and less stuck together.
  • Treat underlying disease such as hyperlipidemia, diabetes


The treatment needs to be effective and fast as it can be life-threatening or lead to other diseases like stroke.

  • Mechanical devices such as compression socks, which help to prevent calf swelling and pain and improve the return of blood back to the heart.
  • Medication such as Alteplase, which helps dissolve clots. Aspirin prevents further clots.
  • Carotid endarterectomy.

Featured image: Dr. Marek Sepiolo Vein Center

Dianabasi Williams

The author Dianabasi Williams

Dianabasi is a Medical Writer at Medics Abroad and a medical student at Trinity College Dublin. She is passionate about volunteering and activism.

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