Have you or your family member ever had your blood drawn for whatever reason, and later developed a nasty, painful bruise over the needle insertion site? This condition is called thrombophlebitis and it is the inflammation of the vein following the formation of a blood clot. A blood clot is a collection of blood components that clump together and form a solid mass, blocking the way for normal blood flow. Thrombophlebitis normally takes place in veins near the surface of the skin, or in technical terms, more superficial. They usually don’t pose any real danger, but if thrombophlebitis happens in the deeper veins, that can be particularly worrying.
Thrombophlebitis of the deeper veins is called deep vein thrombosis. It is more dangerous compared to superficial thrombophlebitis because the blood clot can be large and gets dislodged easier making its way up to the lungs and blocks the main artery supplying it. This potentially fatal condition is called pulmonary embolism. DVT can occur in the deep veins of the legs, or in the upper parts of the body involving any vessels from the region of the neck to the arm.
Typical symptoms of DVT manifest in about half of the people who have this condition. Meaning that the absence of the symptoms doesn’t necessarily rule out the likelihood of having DVT. Deep vein thrombosis symptoms include:
- Swelling usually on one side of the calf, but can be extensive
- Severe cramping pain of the affected leg
- The warmness of the affected part more than the surrounding areas
- Change of skin colour over the site to either pale, red, or bluish in colour
Those with DVT involving the upper part of the body may have symptoms such as:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Swollen arm or hand
- Change of colour of the arm or hand
Cases, where symptoms are not clearly defined, may present to the emergency department with established pulmonary embolism. When this happens, clinical deterioration will occur rapidly, the patient will be gasping for air due to failure of blood to get oxygenated, pressure in the heart will quickly build up and heart will fail to cause a state of shock and the patient will collapse. Failure to identify and treat the condition will lead to a grim consequence.
We understand now how DVT is a serious condition, therefore we need to identify the risk factors carefully so that we may steer clear from getting one.
Injury to the vessel wall may predispose the formation of a blood clot in the veins.
The veins may be subjected to extensive damage and irritation from the procedures either directly or indirectly, added with a period of immobility after surgery greatly adds up the likelihood of DVT occurring after surgery.
Long-haul air flights, post-operative period, a period after delivery, these situations will put anyone in a state of reduced mobility. Prolonged immobility will cause blood to be stagnant and this can rapidly form a clot. Therefore in these situations, it is advisable to walk around, perform some simple leg exercises, wearing compression stockings, depending on the needs and convenience.
Certain medical conditions
Certain medical conditions can cause blood to clot far more easily. These include malignancy, polycythemia, protein C and S deficiency, among others.
Some medications are known to make the blood clot easily. Examples are birth-control pills, hormonal therapy, and chemotherapy drugs.
Pregnancy is all about hormonal changes affecting the body, enabling it to bear another human being growing inside it. Accompanying the wonderful changes to facilitate the growth of the baby and the wellbeing of the mother, unfortunately, is a higher than usual risk of blood clotting in the veins.
Standard treatments include blood thinners, thrombolytic drugs or if all else fails, surgery to effectively treat the condition. If you belong to any one of the groups mentioned above, possessing a risk factor and having the said symptoms, it is imperative that you make your way immediately to the nearest emergency department to confirm your diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment.