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Blood Clots

Blood clotting is a normal process that occurs in the body to prevent bleeding. The body makes blood clots and then breaks them down. Under certain circumstances, the body may be unable to break down a clot, which may result in a serious health condition.

Abnormal blood clotting in the veins is related to a combination of several problems such as "sluggish" blood flow through the veins, an abnormality in clot forming factors or an injury to the blood vessel wall.

Blood clots can form in arteries or veins. Clots formed in veins are called venous clots. Veins of the legs can be classified as superficial veins (close to the surface of the skin) or deep veins (located near the bone and surrounded by muscle). Pooling, or stasis, of blood in the legs and subsequent clotting can result in varicose veins. Clots in the legs may break loose and travel to the lungs, causing pulmonary clots (or pulmonary embolism) that can result in respiratory distress, pain, and in extreme cases, death.

Thrombosis

Thrombosis occurs when a blood clot blocks arteries from carrying oxygenated blood from the heart (arterial thrombosis) or veins from carrying oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart (venous thrombosis).

Venous thrombosis can obstruct the veins or damage their one-way valves, allowing blood to pool, which causes chronic pain, swelling, skin discoloration and skin ulcers.

Arterial thrombosis may result from arteriosclerosis, which involves hardening of the arteries where fatty or calcium deposits cause the arterial walls to thicken. This can lead to plaque instability and risk for rupture followed by thrombus.

When arterial thrombosis occurs in the coronary arteries (arteries that branch from the aorta to provide blood to the heart muscle), it can lead to heart attacks. When arterial thrombosis occurs in the brain circulation, it can lead to strokes or lack of oxygen to other organs.

Symptoms of Thrombosis

The following are the most common symptoms of thrombosis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain isolated to one leg, usually the calf or inner thigh
  • Swelling in the extremity
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body
  • Acute mental status changes

The symptoms of thrombosis may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Treatment for Blood Clots and Thrombosis

Specific treatment for thrombosis will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history
  • Extent and type of thrombosis
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Anticoagulant medications, such as coumadin and heparin
  • Catheters (to expand the width, or lumen, of involved vessels)
  • Stent placement
  • Medications, such as antiplatelets, tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA) and/or enzymes, such as streptokinase to dissolve clots

Other treatments may be advised in your particular situation and will be reviewed in detail with you by your doctor.