The blood in the human body is distributed through blood vessels. When damage is made on body tissues, it can harm the blood vessels, leading to a loss of blood. If blood loss is not stopped, excess bleeding may occur, leading to a deficiency of blood.
The body has its way of preventing blood loss. When a blood vessel is injured, a blood component called platelets are activated to function in their responsibility to stop the bleeding.
Platelets are fragments of a cytoplasm and is without cell nucleus. They are formed from the fragmentation of megakaryocytes in the bone marrow and later released into the blood circulation.
Inactive platelets are normally biconvex and discoid in shape; a shape that changes when become activated in response to damage in blood vessels.
What is thrombosis?
Thrombosis is the unnecessary formation of blood clots inside blood vessels which may either take place in an artery or a vein.
The clot may be formed as a result of excessive production of platelets, the blood component primarily responsible for blood clotting. Medical surgeries can also result to a blood clot inside the vessels due to damage of internal body tissues.
1. Common Causes of Thrombosis
There are three main causes of thrombosis in the body. The first main cause is hypercoagulability. This is also called thrombophilia where blood clots are formed due to genetic deficiencies or autoimmune disorders. These two factors usually lead to the overproduction of platelets.
However, in certain instances, the medical disorders may lead to platelets that are very reactive, easily forming blood clots without the activation process brought about by presence of damaged blood vessels. Neutrophils can also cause thrombosis by mediating numerous pro-thrombotic actions.
The second main cause of thrombosis is endothelial cell wall injury. Common causes of injury to blood vessel walls include trauma, surgery, infection, and turbulent flow at bifurcations.
Disturbed blood flow is the third factor that can also lead to thrombosis. This happens when blood stagnates at certain points in the vein following sedentary behavior or heart failure, increasing the risk of blood clot formation.
2. Stages of thrombosis
When a blood clot is formed inside a deep vein, it is called Deep Vein Thrombosis. When blood is pumped from the heart, pressure will increase where the blood clot may eventually be dislodged and moved to other veins or organs.
For instance, when the blood clot moves to the lungs, it can lead to fatal complications that can be life threatening. When a blood clot is present in the lungs, the thrombosis is referred to as pulmonary embolism. Similarly, pulmonary embolism may develop from a clot that has formed in the heart.
There are two main classes of thrombosis. The classification depends on the location where the thrombus has formed.
The first type is venous thrombosis. In this type, the thrombus is formed within the veins. Since there are different types of veins, venous thrombosis can be further subdivided according to the specific vein where the thrombus has formed. It usually affects the legs and arms.
Portal vein thrombosis, renal vein thrombosis, and jugular vein thrombosis; are some examples of venous thrombosis.
The second type of thrombosis is called arterial thrombosis. This refers to the formation of a thrombus within an artery. It is also called atherothrombosis where it usually leads to the rapture of an atheroma.
4. Thrombosis Symptoms
A patient with thrombosis will display a number of signs and symptoms. Common signs include: persistent headaches, vision problems, shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid heart rate, pain around the affected area, swelling, reddish or bluish discoloration of the affected area, and the skin may feel warm to touch.
However, signs and symptoms that manifest in patients differ depending on the level of thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis has less fatal symptoms than pulmonary embolism. It is also possible for patients with thrombosis not to show any of these signs.
5. Effects of thrombosis
Thrombosis can lead to a number of difficulty to the patient. The effects depend on the location where the thrombosis has formed and how large has it become.
A small thrombus will only reduce the amount of blood flowing through the affected blood vessel. Insufficient blood supply can lead to discomfort such as general body weakness and fatigue. When treated in time, their effects can be controlled.
In some patients, the thrombus may be very large that it blocks the entire blood vessel. This will deprive the affected body tissues of oxygen. The body cells cannot survive for so long without the supply of oxygen. Therefore, the thrombus may lead to permanent destruction of these cells.
Extreme cases can lead to medical conditions such as stroke; a decline of the brain to function normally due to lack of enough blood flowing to it. Another life-threatening effect of thrombosis is heart attack or myocardial infarction, which is also due to ischemia when a thrombus completely blocks the coronary artery.
To top it up, thrombosis can have fatal effects.
6. Risk factors for thrombosis
These are the factors that increase the probability of developing thrombosis. Most of these factors can be controlled while others cannot.
Risk factors include smoking, prolonged immobility, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels in the body. A combination of factors increase the probability of thrombosis dependent on parts of the body and locations of the veins or arteries where it develops.
Patients who are on hormone therapy are also at a high risk of forming unnecessary blood clots. A very common is the use of birth control pills.
7. Thrombosis can also be due to inherited clotting disorders
The frequency of thrombosis incidents in a family genealogy may increase the chances of developing thrombosis. Thrombosis and other blood disorders can be transferred from parents to their offspring. In this case, the possibility of thrombosis can be easier to manage when detected earlier.
8. Examination of thrombosis
When a patient is suspected to have developed a blood clot, the first step is to obtain the patient’s history to determine the risk factor. If the risk factor calls for further examinations, an ultrasound may be used. Venography tests and tomography are other methods that may be utilized.
In the treatment of thrombosis, anticoagulants are preferred. They help by slowing down the time for blood clotting to take place. It also prevents the growth of the thrombus.
Examples of anticoagulants are heparin, warfarin, and apixaban. These drugs can have a number of side effects including excessive bleeding.
Thrombosis can be prevented in a number of ways. Knowing the family history is one of them. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and drinking a lot of water can also help prevent thrombosis.
Prolonged immobility makes it easier for blood clots to form in the legs due to the force of gravity and stability. This means that avoiding prolonged immobility can help prevent clot formation.
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