What is Thrombosis?
Thrombosis, or thrombus, is a broad umbrella term that refers to a range of conditions that all involve blood clots forming in the vein or artery when there is no bleeding. When a clot like this forms (also known as a thrombus), it can have varied health effects depending on where it occurs. Depending on your general condition, thrombosis may be a singular incident or a more chronic problem. However, the good news is that generally, Thrombosis can be cured.
How is Thrombosis (DVT) caused?
Factors that increase your likelihood of developing DVT are similar to those for other vein diseases. Below are some causes of DVT:
- Damage to an artery, vein or surrounding tissue
- Limited movement: extended periods of sitting or lying, such as travelling in a plane or car for a long time, convalescing in a hospital bed or having your leg immobilised in a cast.
- Genetics: family history of DVT, pulmonary embolism or blood-clotting disorders can leave you prone to developing a clot, so make sure you’re taking care of those veins.
- Pregnancy, especially in the later stages and for up to six weeks after birth, increases your chances of developing a clot, so keep moving and wear compression stockings
- Medications like the pill and hormone replacement therapy usually increase your body’s ability to clot and develop a DVT.
- Being overweight or obese puts a greatly increased pressure on the veins in your lower half
- Smoking increases your risk of DVT and blood clots, as well as a range of other health conditions. Speak to your GP to find the best way to quit for good
The question of whether having varicose veins is a significant risk factor for DVT is more controversial because a clear cause-and-effect relationship has not been firmly established. However, in a study reported in the German journal VASA, researchers found that 5.6% of patients with varicose veins developed DVT, compared to 0.9% of the control group without varicose veins. They also found that those with varicose veins, who also had a history of previous venous thromboembolism or recent hospital discharge, were even more at risk.
Symptoms of DVT: What does Thrombosis (DVT) feel like?
Clots can cause a feeling of pain in the leg, like a cramping soreness, as well as causing redness in the area and warmth in the affected leg. The initial symptoms are in themselves alright but act as a warning of something potentially much more serious.
A few of the symptoms of DVT, or Thrombosis are:
- Persistent, throbbing cramp-like feeling in the leg
- Pain and tenderness in the leg when standing or walking, most often the same type of pain as a severe muscle cramp and can come and go.
- Swelling in the affected area, often with redness or discolouration of the skin. If this swelling goes away when iced, or elevating your legs brings the swelling down, it’s more likely a muscle injury.
- The warmth of the area. The swollen/red area will often feel warm or even hot to the touch.
- Altered mobility of the leg. If you find that bending the foot or knee causes more pain, it can be a sign of a DVT
- Shortness of breath, especially if it gets worse after exercise.
- A cough that produces bloody sputum or pink, foamy mucus.
- Fever or excessive sweating.
- Clammy or discoloured skin, often accompanied by feelings of anxiety.
- Sudden lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- Sharp chest pain gets worse when you cough, breathe deeply, bend over or stoop, and doesn’t go away when you rest.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek immediate medical help. In these cases, if a DVT is confirmed by a medical practitioner, they’ll often prescribe a blood-thinner or anti-coagulant to help dissipate the clot and prevent it from growing in addition to any other treatment required.
What is the risk of having a Thrombus, or blood clot?
The primary risk of thrombosis is that it breaks loose and travels through your bloodstream. This can cause it to lodge in your lungs, blocking blood flow and causing a pulmonary embolism, which can be life-threatening. (If you start to experience sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid pulse, light-headedness/dizziness or coughing up blood, seek immediate medical attention.)
Another risk of thrombosis is developing Postphlebitic Syndrome (PTS). This occurs when part of the leg is damaged by a DVT, leading to long-term swelling, pain, skin discolouration and the forming of ulcers.
DVT is relatively uncommon, affecting about 1 in 1000 people (Anyone over 80 is ten times more likely to develop a DVT). If you suspect that you have one, it’s important to see a doctor to diagnose and refer you for appropriate treatment.
Read more: Why do blood clots form?
Can thrombosis (DVT) be cured?
In one word, yes. In most cases DVT, once diagnosed, there are several simple and successful methods used to treat DVT and other thrombi. While we’ve outlined some key remedies below, they should always be done in consultation with a doctor. Here are examples of how Thrombosis can be cured:
- Anti-Coagulants: Known as blood thinners, these reduce the risk of a clot forming and help your body to safely remove most clots that have formed. These should only be taken with the consultation of a doctor or clot/blood specialist.
- Compression Stockings: Medical-grade compression stockings are one of the most effective ways to minimise the risk of clots forming, and is particularly effective at treating current clots, especially alongside the use of anti-coagulants. Compression stockings can be purchased at The Vein Institute Shop. Wearing compression stockings on flights, while driving and while at work (if you stand or sit all day), will help to reduce the risk of clots forming, and is one of the best ways to manage chronic forming of clots.
- Exercise and Therapy: This is recommended to be done in combination with compression stockings. By exercising regularly, even if it’s just a simple walk, your circulation improves, helping the blood to move properly. Sometimes a doctor will recommend physiotherapy and stretches to help improve circulation and manage any associated pain, as well as reducing the risk of further clots (particularly in people who are overweight).
To determine your own risk for DVT, ask your specialist at The Vein Institute. They can diagnose the presence of blood clots using Duplex ultrasound or venography (injecting a dye into the vein that then reveals blockages in X-rays). Your vein doctor can also recommend diet and lifestyle changes to reduce your DVT risk if your risk level is high for hereditary or other reasons.
Seek expert advice
The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive program using non-surgical laser treatment techniques. You can learn more in our Definitive Guide to Varicose Vein Treatment.
The benefits of non-surgical varicose vein treatment are:
- Walk-in walk-out treatment
- 98% success rate
- Extremely effective
- Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
- No general anaesthetic
- Medicare rebates apply
- No downtime or time away from work