Blood Clot Information
A blood clot— or thrombus, to use the technical term— is one of the most common causes of death in the industrialized world. It happens when a clot forms in a healthy blood vessel— normally coagulation should occur only when a person has a wound, to prevent death from blood loss— and does not go away. A stroke may result if a clot forms in a cerebral artery. Thrombi can also travel from one vessel to another, so it is imperative to get medical attention at the first signs or symptoms of the disease, before it becomes potentially life- threatening.
Several pathological factors can result in a thrombus. Patients who have recently suffered a heart attack are at high risk for developing them, as are those who have had a heart transplant, are inactive for long periods of time, or have a genetic clotting deficiency. One study, which appeared on the website of the Australian nonprofit environmental organization Planet Ark on September 21, 2007, suggested that pollutants produced by exhaust from motor vehicles may be responsible for a large portion of strokes and heart attacks. One such culprit has been identified as interleukin- 6, which is secreted by lungs that have become inflamed by toxins: It has been shown to increase the likelihood of the blood clotting. Likewise, diesel fumes, when inhaled, tend to interfere with the blood’s ability to break down thrombi; and mice used in experiments have been shown to bleed less when they have inhaled toxic particles in the air. And IL- 6 is present in higher levels in patients who are in an advanced state of cancer, so doctors are considering developing anti- IL- 6 agents.
Other factors that contribute to thrombi include smoking, birth control pills, pregnancy, and obesity. Genetic conditions that make one more vulnerable include deficiencies of antithrobin 3 and of proteins C and S, and antiphospholipid syndrome, a coagulation disorder that is also responsible for many cases of miscarriage and preeclampsia.
Blood clot symptoms normally do not occur. But an abnormal clot, which can be far more deadly, can produce such symptoms as isolated pain or cold just beneath the locus of the clot, tenderness of the skin, and phlebitis, or inflammation of a vein. Other symptoms depend on where the clot occurs: If a retinal artery is blocked, an eye may become blind or partially blind, while a clot in a cerebral artery may cause dizziness and fainting.
Blood clot signs may include streaking around the affected area, sudden cough, heightened heart or breathing rate, and coughing up blood. The calves may become swollen and tender.
Blood clot treatment should always be sought from a professional at a hospital— Dr. Douglas Schuerer has stated that no home treatment for thrombi has been proven to be safe. Doctors prescribe anticoagulant medications in various combinations; such drugs include heparin, which prevents clots from expanding and forming new ones, and warfarin, which is taken orally. Whatever medicine the patient is taking, he must be carefully monitored and continue to see his physician regularly.
In a small minority— less than one out of twenty— of all blood clotting cases, surgery is necessary. Many of these are cases of abnormally large thrombi in the legs. The surgical procedure, called a venous thrombectomy, involves making an incision and removing the thrombus with a catheter. The patient is also injected with heparin.