Antithrombin is also known as Antithrombin III or AT 3, a small protein molecule that plays an important role in helping to control blood clotting in the body by inhibitory regulation of thrombin. It is a natural blood thinner produced by the liver.
Thrombin is one of the clotting factors that help the body avoid the possibility of extreme blood loss.
If you notice the blood turning from liquid into a gel-like texture in an open wound, that is the blood clotting process taking place.
In some cases, a person develops a clotting disorder like the occurrence of blood clots inside the veins in certain parts of the body. This is where antithrombin III deficiency comes to light, which if left untreated, may cause more serious problems.
Antithrombin III or AT 3
1. Antithrombin III has two types: Inherited and Acquired
The inherited antithrombin deficiency has a higher risk for blood clots to develop since it is due to genetic abnormality. It has two categories: Type I which is described as a decrease in antithrombin activity and its concentration in the blood of the affected individual; and Type II which is having normal levels of antithrombin in the body but a decrease of its activity in the blood of the affected individual.
The acquired antithrombin deficiency is associated with medical disorders such as liver and kidney diseases, cardiac surgeries, a protein losing condition, etc. It can be a result of treatment for certain type of blood disorders. It is more prevalent than inherited antithrombin deficiency.
2. Antithrombin III deficiency is life threatening
Antithrombin III deficiency is a very rare condition that only a few people and professionals in medicine have a detailed idea about it.
It can create serious damage in the body and in some situations it can cause heart attack or stroke if left untreated.
Persons with antithrombin deficiency must consult a doctor or specialist, a hematologist so they can run tests to determine the level and activity of antithrombin in the body.
3. Antithrombin III deficiency chooses no one.
Antithrombin deficiency is a very rare disorder but can affect either men or women, equally.
In the United States, one in every 3,000 to 5,000 people is affected by antithrombin deficiency.
And 1 % of the people who developed blood clots in the veins (venous thrombosis) has an inherited antithrombin deficiency.
- M.D. Jack Hirsh, M.D. Franco Piovella, & M.D. Mario Pini (1989). Congenital antithrombin III deficiency: Incidence and Clinical Features.
- Tienan Zhu, Qiulan Ding, Xia Bai, Xiaoyan Wang, Florentia Kaguelidou, Corinne Alberti, Xuqian Wei, Baolai Hua, Renchi Yang, Xuefeng Wang, Zhaoyue Wang, Changgeng Ruan, Nicole Schlegel, & Yongqiang Zhao (2011). Normal ranges and genetic variants of antithrombin, protein C and protein S in the general Chinese population. Results of the Chinese Hemostasis Investigation on Natural Anticoagulants Study I Group.
4. Pregnant women with antithrombin III deficiency has slightly increased risk than others.
A woman with antithrombin deficiency has a slightly higher risk for developing blood clots during pregnancy and/or after delivery.
Pregnancy loss is likely due to the presence of blood clot in the placenta which causes the supply of blood and oxygen to the fetus to be cut-off.
Reports found incidences that ranges from 3% to 50% anywhere in the world.
A newborn baby can inherit the antithrombin deficiency from the parents.
5. Antithrombin III deficiency treatment
The primary goal of treatment is prevention of abnormal blood clotting.
Hematologists still debate on the most effective treatment for people with antithrombin deficiency due to lack of clinical studies on it over the years.
Antithrombin concentrates may be given depending on the status of the individual having antithrombin deficiency. It is also used to prevent venous blood clots when other blood thinners like heparin is not advisable for they can cause an increased risk of bleeding.
6. Antithrombin III deficiency Test
The test is requested by the doctor if the person suffers from blood clots forming in veins or other parts of the body more than once.
It is performed by a nurse or health care specialist where they take a blood sample that is usually drawn from the arm of the patient using a small needle and sent to the lab for analysis.
Antithrombin III deficiency test may sometimes make you feel uncomfortable when the blood sample is drawn, where others may suffer from fainting or infection on the puncture site.
7. Reduce the risk of blood clot
There are different ways to prevent the occurrence of blood clots in the body such as: doing your exercise regularly for this can improve the body’s ability to dissolve the clot that may have formed and promote healthy blood flow in the veins; and avoiding long periods of stationary movements especially when you are at risk or travelling far distances.
Seeking medical advice is very important before taking actions in the management of a blood clot. Therefore, prevention is better than cure as they always say.
8. Smoking and Obesity can cause Antithrombin deficiency
Smoking can damage the vessel walls in the lungs and other parts of the body which will decrease the amount of oxygen in the blood. This can potentially lead to clot formation inside the damage walls.
Obesity also causes poor circulation of blood in the veins due to the formation of unnecessary fats around it making the veins narrow, increasing the risk of blood clot formation.
9. Antithrombin deficiency test results
Lower-than-normal antithrombin can mean that you have an increased risk of clotting and you have antithrombin deficiency. This can occur when there is not enough antithrombin in your blood, or when there may be enough in your blood but doesn’t work properly and is less active.
Higher than normal antithrombin, on the other hand, is a value that may not indicate any significant health problem. The doctor will explain the lab results after taking the test and will help you understand more about it.
10. It can be stressful
Undergoing diagnosis and treatment of antithrombin deficiency can be stressful to the person. Coping up with stress is the best way the patient should implement to achieve faster and better outcome of the treatments provided.
The family should support any member who suffers from antithrombin deficiency and understand their situation.
It may not be easy but never hesitate to ask help from the doctors for they will be happy to help you in your treatment.
The treatment will also assist you avoid the development of a more complicated condition that may arise due to the abnormal presence of blood clots in the body. It will also help you become aware of your body’s needs in the prevention and management of blood clots or antithrombin deficiency.
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