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- Worldthrombosis.org
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.
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
Sign & symptoms
- 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)
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 is a Medical Writer at Medics Abroad and a medical student at Trinity College Dublin. She is passionate about volunteering and activism.