Thrombosis is a major killer in the United Kingdom; however it is not widely understood by the general public. Understanding thrombosis can help people to avoid this health problem or to reduce the risks that are associated with suffering from thrombosis. This can help to save lives.
The following article aims to discuss the different types of thrombosis in more detail, to help to highlight the different problems that people can face.
What is Thrombosis?
Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot within a blood vessel. The clot may block the blood vessel and prevent or reduce the flow of blood, which can cause serious health consequences. It is also possible for the blood clot to move through the circulatory system to other areas of the body. If the clot travels to major organs, such as the brain or lungs, it can also cause serious health symptoms including a heart attack or a stroke. Although clotting is a normally bodily function, if the body starts to produce clots where they are not required, then this can become a problem.
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Different types of Thrombosis
Thrombosis is normally categorised by where it occurs in the body. Within these categories, it may be classified further.
A venous thrombosis is categorised as a thrombus (blood clot) which has formed in a vein.
Veins are the blood vessels which (usually) carry blood away from the heart. Blood can flow more slowly in the veins than the arteries, and this can increase the likelihood of blood clots forming in these vessels. However, other factors also increase the chances of a person suffering from a venous thrombosis.
Superficial Vein Thrombosis
A superficial vein is a vein which is close to the surface of the body. They are normally responsible for helping to cool the body. It may be possible to see these veins bulging out under certain conditions. Patients may feel a slightly harder area or witness some reddening of the area. These thromboses are not normally as serious as deep vein thrombosis; however they can become more serious if they are able to enter deep veins through the perforator veins.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Deep vein thrombosis occurs within the deep veins, which run further away from the surface of the skin. More blood is carried through the deep vein systems than through the superficial veins. Most deep vein thrombosis occurs within the legs, although they can occur anywhere within the deep vein system.
Signs of a DVT include; redness, swelling and warmness in the affected area. An ultrasound scan is normally required to help to provide a definitive diagnosis. Individuals who are deemed to be most at risk of developing this type of thrombosis are advised to move frequently and do calf exercises to promote better blood flow in the area. Those who cannot exercise may be given graduate compression stocking or put on an anticoagulant medication like warfarin or heparin.
Renal Vein Thrombosis (RVT)
A renal vein thrombosis is a thrombosis that occurs in the veins that drain blood away from the kidneys. These clots reduce the ability of the kidneys to clean and filter the blood. This can increase the risk that further clots will then develop. RVT should be treated as soon as it is discovered, to help to maintain stable renal function. Men are twice as likely to suffer from RVT as women are, although the reasons for this are largely unknown. It mainly affects people over the age of 40.
A large number of factors can contribute to instances of renal vein thrombosis, including; nephritic syndrome, cancer, kidney transplants and blunt trauma to the lower back or abdomen. Some of these conditions mean the sufferer is likely to suffer multiple episodes of thrombosis over their lifetime. RVT is rarely treated with surgery nowadays, unless alternative treatments are unsuccessful. The surgery to remove clots from the renal veins is very invasive and can cause serious complications. Patients with chronic RVT may be required to take anticoagulants for the rest of their lives.
Arterial Thrombosis (atherothrombosis)
Arterial thrombosis is much less common than venous thrombosis, although it poses similar risks. The veins are responsible for taking blood and oxygen to different sections of the body. The blood is normally subject to higher pressure when it is travelling in the veins and may be moving more quickly. It is therefore less likely to clot in the arteries. Whereas venous thromboses normally lead to swelling and fluid congestion in an area, arterial thrombosis can lead to body tissue becoming starved of blood and oxygen. This can eventually lead to necrosis of the tissue. A thrombosis or embolism in the coronary artery can cause a heart attack. If blood supply to the brain is disrupted, the patient may suffer a stroke.