Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Watch for the Silent Symptoms of a Thrombus

Imbalanced blood circulation can lead to blood clots forming in veins. These clots can cause serious trouble. Clots in blood vessels are known as thrombi. A thrombus causes heart failure if it develops in cardiovascular vessels either by blocking the vessels or through ischemia; it is known as deep vein thrombosis if it develops in the legs and causes a stroke if it develops in cerebrovascular vessels.

A thrombus could be fatal once it develops, as the clot can break off and travel through the circulatory system. This is known as an embolus and this traveling embolus can lodge in a blood vessel that is too small to allow it to pass — this is when a person can suffer from a heart attack or experience other life-threatening symptoms. A thrombus in the arteries is called an arterial thrombus and a thrombus in the veins is called a venous thrombus. Both are made up of different components of blood cells and appear different under a microscope.

Illustration comparing normal artery vs diseased artery with a blood clot. (Image: Bruce Blaus via wikimedia CC BY 3.0)
An illustration comparing a normal artery versus a diseased artery with a blood clot. (Image: Bruce Blaus via wikimedia CC BY 3.0)

Thrombi or embolisms typically present in middle-aged and senior people. However, there are some precursors or conditions such as vascular sclerosis, high blood lipids, venous trauma, tumors, diabetes, surgery, or pregnancy to name some of the most common causes of venous thrombosis. Arterial thrombosis is more likely in people who are sedentary, who are obese or smoke, or where there is a family history of the disease. If one is made aware of the precursors, it may be possible to avoid this disorder either developing or becoming a serious health condition.

If the following symptoms appear in the lower limbs, watch for signs of a thrombus.

The lower limbs are painful without any disorders of the joints

The most obvious symptom of arteriosclerosis in a lower limb is severe pain in the leg. Initially, the person feels pain in the leg when walking. It might be relieved after some rest. As the arteriosclerosis gets worse, the frequency and duration of painful episodes increases, which is called intermittent claudication, an obvious sign of a thrombus.

In the later stage, the pain will remain without any movement of the body, clinically called resting pain. It is more prominent when lying supine at night when going to sleep. Once this symptom develops, be alerted for the formation of a thrombus.

The most obvious symptom of arteriosclerosis in a lower limb is severe pain in the leg. (Image: pexels / CC0 1.0)
The most obvious symptom of arteriosclerosis in a lower limb is severe pain in the leg. (Image: pexels / CC0 1.0)

The lower limbs feel extremely cold even with thick clothing

It is a common sign of atherosclerosis and a precursor for thrombus. The blood circulation is affected and is inadequate in both conditions. The temperature in the lower limbs will be significantly lower than other parts of the body, and you will have cold legs.

The legs and feet are numb and swollen

It is expected to experience numbness in the legs when standing up after squatting down for a long time because the blood supply to the lower limbs is cut off during this maneuver. If this numbness develops without compressing the legs, it means the blood circulation to the lower limbs has been hindered already from the inside.

Ulcers developing on the foot

Ulcers developing on the foot signify thrombus in the lower limbs. Due to an insufficient supply of blood to the feet, small wounds cannot heal in time. When the blood oxygen to the legs is insufficient, ulcers and gangrene will gradually develop as the tissues in the legs become soggy. If untreated, this might lead to amputation.

Any one of the above four symptoms is an alarming sign of thrombus and requires an examination of the blood vessels. In addition to thrombus, ulcers on the feet or lower legs also might signify a high blood sugar from undiagnosed type 2 diabetes or uncontrolled type 1 diabetes and requires a prompt investigation.

Translated by Audrey Wang and edited by Helen

Source: Secret China

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