Word on Health

Word on Thrombosis

Our grateful thanks to Professor Beverley Hunt and Thrombosis UK for their contribution to our radio report (which you can hear again via the audio player at the bottom of this page) and for the use of the information below from their website.   

Thrombosis is the formation of potentially deadly blood clots.

Blood clots can form in the artery (arterial thrombosis) or vein (venous thrombosis).

Blood clots in the arteries cause heart attacks and strokes. Blood clots in the veins can lead to death due to breaking off and blocking the blood supply to the lungs:

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is when blood clots in a deep vein (most often the leg)

Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a blood clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs

Collectively, DVT and PE are known venous thromboembolism - VTE.

Most deep vein blood clots occur in the lower leg or thigh, however, they can also occur in other parts of the body.

A blood clot in a deep vein can break off and travel through the bloodstream. The loose clot is called an embolus. It can travel to an artery in the lungs and block blood flow. This condition is called pulmonary embolism, or PE, a very serious condition.

Many DVTs occur in the legs, most often the calf, but DVTs can occur anywhere and in many cases, there may be few or no symptoms of DVT.

If symptoms do occur they can include:

  • Pain, swelling and tenderness where the DVT has occurred
  • A heavy ache in the affected area
  • Warm skin in the area of the clot
  • Red skin, particularly at the back of your leg below the knee

DVT usually (although not always) affects one leg. The pain may be worse when you bend your foot upward towards your knee. A DVT requires urgent investigation and treatment. Remember if in doubt get checked out. If left untreated, about 1 in 10 people with a DVT will develop a pulmonary embolism.

Some of the signs and symptoms of a PE include:

  • Breathlessness – which may come I gradually or suddenly
  • Chest pain – which may become worse when you breath in
  • Sudden collapse

A pulmonary embolism requires urgent investigation and treatment. Seek immediate medical attention if you develop breathlessness and chest pain.

Risk Factors. Being aware of risk factors, and especially of your own risk factors is really important in helping you to avoid and protect yourself from thrombosis. bThe most common risk factors for thrombosis are:

  • Hospitalization for illness or surgery
  • Major surgery, particularly of the pelvis, abdomen, hip, knee
  • Severe trauma, such as a car accident
  • Injury to a vein that may have been caused by a broken bone or severe muscle injury
  • Hip or knee replacement surgery
  • Cancer and cancer treatments
  • Contraceptive pill for birth control in particular those that contain estrogen, such as the pill, patch or ring
  • Pregnancy, (including the six weeks after the baby is born)
  • Hormone therapy (HRT), which contains oral estrogen
  • A family history of blood clots
  • Obesity
  • Long-term bed rest
  • Long periods of inactivity including sitting for long period of time, especially with legs crossed

Blood clots are rare in young, healthy people. You're more likely to get them if you:

  • are staying in or recently left hospital – especially if you can't move around much (like after an operation)
  • are overweight
  • smoke
  • are using combined hormonal contraception such as the combined pill, contraceptive patch or vaginal ring
  • have had a blood clot before

There are also other things that increase your risk of clots. Find out more via the NHS website 

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.