What is thrombosis?

People who have experienced a blood clot in the leg say they’ve felt cramps. / Net photo

Acknowledged every year on October 13, World Thrombosis Day (WTD) highlights the often overlooked condition of thrombosis, placing a global spotlight on the condition as an urgent and growing health problem. 

Thrombosis, the formation of a blood clot, known as a thrombus, within a blood vessel, may occur in veins (venous thrombosis) or in arteries (arterial thrombosis). This clot prevents the flow of blood through the circulatory system. 
 
Medics say some of the signs of thrombosis include swelling of the legs, discomfort, aching, itching and throbbing around the affected area.
 
The signs of this condition are at times similar to other medical conditions. And so, it is sometimes hard for one to rule out the condition.  

This is why when 44-year-old Shimwa, a mother, experienced some of these signs, she barely understood the ailment she was suffering from.
 
The lower part of her left leg had pain that lasted for over a week, her veins hurt, but because she had just had a miscarriage, she misread the signs as effects of the miscarriage.
 
“I spent a week with the pain but I thought it was normal, however, it got worse as days went by. The skin around my leg was swollen and it was so hot,” she says. 

She later decided to go for a check-up and the doctors diagnosed her with deep vein thrombosis.
 
“I was told I was lucky because I went for treatment on time. Doctors told me this condition requires immediate attention because it is so deadly,” she says.
 
Shimwa went on to suffer the same conditions years later, and this time, she says, it was worse because she reached the extent of running out of breath.
 
“I think I was lucky to survive. I didn’t waste time because I immediately went to the hospital and received fast medical attention.” 

Dr Rosemary Mukurizi, Senior Consult Anaesthesiologist at King Faisal Hospital, says it is best to always avoid having the first clot because chances of getting a second clot are high for one who has had thrombosis before. 

She says that deep veins thrombosis can happen in different areas of the body, such as the big vessels of the arm, small vessels of the foot, but the commonest area is the deep vein in the legs (the calf).
 
WHY IS IT DEADLY?
 
Normally, the veins in the body help in the pumping and transportation of blood, so when a clot forms in the vessel, itis basically blocking the channel of blood flow. 
 
Dr Mukurizi says these vessels also take back the blood to the heart for it to be pumped to the lungs. And when there is a big particle or clot, it will stop the blood flow, and when this happens, the patient won’t get normal blood supply to the lungs and they will experience difficulty in breathing.
 
Also, pulmonary embolism (the blood clot itself travelling to the lungs) is bound to happen, this too can block the flow of blood to the lungs, causing serious damage, and this can lead to death.
 
How long it takes for one to experience these symptoms, Dr Mukurizi says, depends on how big the clot is; if it is massive, it is going to be spontaneous — that is the patient immediately experiences them, and if the clot is small, symptoms may be progressive and can take a few days to manifest.
 
Other signs include low blood pressure, fever, cough, spitting of blood as a patient is coughing, severe chest pain when coughing and in most cases, the cough is dry.
 
The risk factors that lead to thrombosis, Dr Mukurizi says, include prolonged immobility, surgery, pregnancy, and damage to the vessel wall, among others.
 
TREATMENT
 
Dr Mukurizi says it is important to take the patient’s history for this helps out an ineffective diagnosis of the condition.
 
Treatment for deep vein thrombosis is aimed at preventing the clot from getting bigger and preventing it from breaking loose and causing a pulmonary embolism. 
 
“The primary treatment for this is injections but it can also be done by administering anticoagulants, (medicine that prevents blood clots),” the medic says.
 
Dr Mukurizi also says it is important to put a bedridden patient on coagulants to prevent clotting, the same with a patient undergoing surgery.
 
She also notes that apart from medical interventions, there are also mechanical ones that help in dealing with clots.
 
These include wearing compression stockings; these are worn on the legs from the feet to about the level of the knees and they help in preventing swelling associated with deep vein thrombosis.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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