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Thrombosis & Blood Clots

Thrombosis occurs when blood clots form in an artery or vein and prevent blood from circulating. The two main types of thrombosis are arterial thrombosis and venous thrombosis:

  • Arterial thrombosis: A blood clot blocks an artery carrying blood away from the heart to the body, such as a heart attack or stroke.
  • Venous thrombosis: A blood clot blocks a vein carrying blood from the body back into the heart, such as a pulmonary embolism.

Arterial Thrombosis

Arterial thrombosis is a blood clot that occurs in an artery. This is life-threatening because the clot can stop the flow of blood to major organs, like the heart or brain.

Risk factors for arterial thrombosis include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Age
  • Family history
  • High cholesterol
  • Lack of physical activity

The signs and symptoms of arterial thrombosis depend on the location the clot. Signs on ischemic stroke due to arterial thrombosis include:

  • Confusion or difficulty understanding and speaking
  • Dizziness or problems with balance or coordination, including movement/walking
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure
  • Severe headaches with no other known cause
  • Vision problems, such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body

Arterial thrombosis also can result in heart attack. The following symptoms may be sign of a heart attack:

  • Discomfort in the chest
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

Venous Thrombosis

Venous thrombosis — also called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that occurs in the deep veins of the leg or arm. If the clot breaks loose and travels in the blood, it is called venous thromboembolism (VTE). If the clot moves to the lungs, this is called a pulmonary embolism (PE).

Risk factors for venous thrombosis include:

  • Major general or orthopedic surgery
  • Multiple trauma
  • Previous DVT
  • Lower-extremity paralysis or paresis (such as from a spinal cord injury)
  • Physical inactivity
  • Cancer (especially metastatic cancer)
  • Age
  • Improper use anticoagulation medication

Because venous thrombosis forms in the arm or leg, the following symptoms may occur after the clot has formed:

  • Leg pain, which may start as cramping or soreness
  • Red or discolored skin on the leg
  • A feeling of warmth in the affected leg

How to Prevent Thrombosis

Inform your healthcare team if you have had a blood clot in in the past.

  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid drinks that will dehydrate you like coffee and alcohol 
  • Perform basic leg exercises, such as stretching 
  • Don’t wear short tight socks; wear compression stockings that promote blood flow
  • Don’t smoke 
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Take medication as prescribed
  • Stay active and exercise regularly

Thrombosis Treatment

Standard treatment for thrombosis or embolism is blood-thinning medications or anticoagulants. In some cases, thrombolytic therapy with a clot-dissolving medication, or removing a clot in the lung with surgery or a catheter may be an option. As a Comprehensive Stroke Center, UI Health has coordinated care protocols for intravenous thrombolysis-eligible patients that result in door-to-treatment times that exceed national benchmarks.

Contact us

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 866.600.CARE (2273).