Alternative Names: Clot; Emboli; Thrombi
Blood is a liquid that flows within blood vessels. It is constantly in motion as the heart pumps blood through arteries to the different organs and cells of the body. The blood is returned back to the heart by the veins. Veins are squeezed when muscles in the body contract and push the blood back to the heart.
Blood clotting is an important mechanism to help the body repair injured blood vessels.
Blood consists of:
•red blood cells containing hemoglobin that carry oxygen to cells and remove carbon dioxide (the waste product of metabolism),
•white blood cells that fight infection,
•platelets that are part of the clotting process of the body, and
•blood plasma, which contains fluid, chemicals and proteins that are important for bodily functions.
Complex mechanisms exist in the bloodstream to form clots where they are needed. If the lining of the blood vessels becomes damaged, platelets are recruited to the injured area to form an initial plug. These activated platelets release chemicals that start the clotting cascade, using a series of clotting factors produced by the body. Ultimately, fibrin is formed, the protein that crosslinks with itself to form a mesh that makes up the final blood clot.
The medical term for a blood clot is a thrombus (plural= thrombi). When a thrombus is formed as part of a normal repair process of the body, there is little consequence. Unfortunately, there are times when a thrombus (blood clot) will form when it is not needed, and this can have potentially significant consequences.
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Thousands more people will have long term health problems as a result of a blood clot in the vein. Many of these people would have been completely unaware that they were at increased risk of venous thrombosis, so missing out on treatment which could be life saving.
Clots can form in any vein deep within the body, but most often can be found in the deep veins of the leg. These deep vein thromboses (DVT) form in the calf or lower leg, behind the knee, in the thigh or in the veins passing through the pelvis.
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Each year more than one in every thousand people in the UK develops a blood clot in a vein, known as a venous thrombosis. For as many as 25,000, the clot will prove fatal; more deaths than from breast cancer, HIV and road traffic accidents combined.
Causes and risk factors:
There are several factors that significantly increase someone’s risk of developing a venous thrombosis:
•Slowing of blood flow through the veins, for example when someone is confined to bed by illness or to a chair on a long journey.
•Damage to the walls of the blood vessels, for example during surgery on the legs, hips or pelvis, or as a result of age-related changes.
•An increased tendency of the blood to clot, because of inherited problems with the blood’s clotting system, cancer, or the hormone changes of pregnancy (or the contraceptive pill).
You may click to see :Family history linked to increased blood clot risk
Those particularly at risk include:
•The elderly – one in 100 over the age of 80 are at risk.
•Those who are immobile, because of illness, surgery or travel.
•People undergoing surgery on the hips and knees. More than half of those people having a total hip replacement will develop a DVT if not given preventative medicine.
•Heart attack or stroke patients.
•People with cancer, especially after surgery or if they’re having chemotherapy.
•Women during pregnancy, or if they’re using the contraceptive pill or HRT.
•Those with previous blood clotting problems (including inherited abnormalities of clotting which are much more common than most people realise).
If the DVT damages the delicate valves which help keep blood flowing upwards towards the heart, a condition called post-phlebitic syndrome may develop (occurring in one in five after a DVT). As a result, blood pools in the lower leg, increasing pressure in the vessels, causing swelling of the leg and ankle and a heavy sensation, especially after walking or standing. Skin ulcers may also develop.
When the clot forms, it blocks the vein, preventing blood from draining from the limb as it should. The result is that the leg becomes swollen and painful, may change colour (turning pale, blue or reddish-purple) or the skin appears tight or shiny.
More worrying is the risk that part of the clot will break away, forming what is known as an embolus which travels around the circulation, through the heart and into the lungs where it blocks a blood vessel. This is known as a pulmonary embolus (PE) and estimates suggest that as many as 50 per cent of those with a DVT will go on to develop a PE.
The symptoms of PE include chest pain and shortness of breath, which may be sudden and severe. Although some people develop a PE without noticing any symptoms, it can be extremely dangerous and cause damage to the lung tissues proving fatal in as many as one in ten unless treated.
Long term complications include chronic pulmonary hypertension, where the pressure in the blood vessels of the lung remains persistently high.
Thrombi and emboli can firmly attach to a blood vessel. They can partially or completely block the flow of blood in that vessel.
A blockage in the blood vessel prevents normal blood flow and oxygen from reaching the tissues in that location. This is called ischemia. If ischemia is not treated promptly, it can result in tissue damage, or death of the tissues in that area.
Symptoms of a DVT or PE may be minimal and can often go undiagnosed. When suspected, it can be difficult to reach a definite diagnosis because tests aren’t straightforward and don’t always give a clear result.
•A blood test known as a D-dimer (although a negative result means that a clot is unlikely, a positive can occur in a number of other illnesses so it is not specific for a DVT or PE).
•An ultrasound scan (good for showing a clot behind the knee or in the thigh, but not so accurate for a DVT in the calf). A special type of ultrasound, known as Doppler ultrasound, is increasingly used and can show how fast the blood is flowing through the veins.
•An x-ray dye test known as a venogram (more invasive than ultrasound).
•MRI or CT scans.
•Ventilation/perfusion scan, where the parts of the lung being filled with air are compared with those with blood flowing through them.
Treatment and prevention:
Once a DVT or PE has been diagnosed, treatment is started to thin the blood (known as anticoagulant therapy), reducing the risk that the clot will grow or spread.
Immediate treatment is given in the form of injections of a drug called heparin, and warfarin tablets, which take several days to build effect. When the cause of the clot formation is clear, such as after surgery, treatment is continued for three months, but when there’s no obvious cause it may be continued for six months or even indefinitely.
The effects of warfarin can vary. Other illnesses and treatments, or even a change in diet, can interfere and it’s quite easy to become over – or under – coagulated, leading to a risk of either a haemorrhage or further clots. Those taking warfarin must have regular blood tests to monitor their clotting levels, and the dose of warfarin adjusted accordingly.
Newer drugs are being developed which are more consistent in their effect and which one day may replace warfarin.
When someone is known to be at risk of venous thrombosis, clots can be prevented by taking a few simple steps and giving small doses of anti-coagulant drugs.
Herbal Treatment:-There are certain proven herbal treatments for thrombosis. One of the most prominent herbal treatments for thrombosis is sweet potato. Scientifically it is called Ipomoea batatas. However in the US of A it is popularly known as Yam. This herbal fruit is an antioxidant. It is also abundant in Vitamin A and C. This being the case it is very effective in treating thrombosis. Another very potent herbal treatment for thrombosis is lemon. The imbibing of 300 ml of lemon juice for 2 months would lessen the symptoms of thrombosis. These herbal treatments have been tried with success by scores of people with success.
During long distance travel, or other periods of immobility, you should:
•Keep well hydrated
•Wear elastic compression stockings to support blood flow through the veins (it’s important that these are put on correctly)
•Take a little exercise at frequent intervals (if stuck in a seat, carry out simple leg exercises in the chair such as flexing your ankles).
Heparin treatment will reduce the risk of DVT following cancer treatment or hip or knee surgery by 70 per cent. People having major surgery have a 30 per cent risk of DVT which is reduced by about 60 per cent with anti-coagulants.
If you’re going into hospital for an operation or other treatment you should be assessed for your risk of developing a blood clot and in most cases will be offered preventative treatment with anti-coagulant injections. Compression stockings may also be used.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.
- What is deep vein thrombosis? (zocdoc.com)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease Raises Clot Risk (webmd.com)
- What are the symptoms of a blood clot in one’s leg? (zocdoc.com)
- DVT and Driving (everydayhealth.com)
- The Facts on Deep Vein Thrombosis (everydayhealth.com)
- What Is Involved in Blood Clot Formation? (brainz.org)
- Blood clots – All Information (umm.edu)