Thrombosis in Veins

Thrombosis means the formation of a thrombus or clot. A thrombus can be present in either an artery or a vein.

Occasionally a thrombosis in a vein causes no symptoms. Mostly symptoms are present and include swelling, pain, redness, heat and discomfort in the area of the thrombosis. Calf tenderness in the case of a clot in the leg can occur. A fever may be present and if the clot spreads to the lungs, there will be symptoms of pain in the chest, a cough and shortness of breath.

The exact cause of thrombus formation in veins is not known. It is thought to be associated with inflammation of veins, a slowing of blood flow and an increased tendency for blood to clot. Damage to the wall of the vein such as a blow or injury or from a catheter during intravenous therapy is also a factor leading to the formation of clots.

Slowing of blood flow can occur with bed rest, prolonged standing or sitting such as in the case of a long aeroplane trip, restriction of leg movement as with a plaster cast, heart conditions, pressure on the veins from pillows under the knees or from tight garters and even pressure from tumours.

There is an increased tendency for blood clot in the elderly and following trauma during surgery of child birth. Certain blood diseases and cancer can affect the blood and the use of oral contraceptives increases the risk of clot.

Diagnosis can be confirmed by x-rays, ultrasound, nuclear medicine scanning investigations and blood tests.

Prevention of clot formation in the legs includes walking and leg exercises particularly in those more at risk. Early ambulation after surgery, regular stops for walking about during long car trips, moving about the aeroplane during long journeys, moving your legs and feet while sitting, donít standing or sitting for long periods, particularly with crossed legs are all ways of keeping the blood circulating to reduce the risk of blood clots.

In high risk patients anti-clotting medication may be necessary as a preventative measure. Treatment of established clots includes anti-clotting medication, bed rest and elevation, application of elastic bandages. As the condition settles, ambulation with elastic support to legs is necessary. Limitations on standing and sitting for long periods may be necessary for 3 to 6 months.

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