What is thrombosis? Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel, preventing the flow of blood through the circulatory system. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the most common form of venous thrombosis (blood clot). DVT refers to a clot in a deep vein and often happens in the leg. Symptoms in the affected area include pain, swelling, redness and warmth. A physician should be consulted if a DVT is suspected, as sometimes the clot may break loose and travel to other parts of the body, where it can cause serious complications.
If the clot travels to the lungs, it can block essential blood vessels and is a life-threatening complication, known as a pulmonary embolism. Symptoms include a sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up blood-streaked mucus and a rapid heartbeat. If the clot travels to the brain, it is also extremely dangerous and can potentially cause a cerebral venous thrombosis. Symptoms can include impaired speech, difficulty moving parts of the body, vision problems and severe headaches.
What factors increase the risk of a blood clot?
A combination of environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors affect thrombotic risk:
- Genetic mutations in the F5, F2 and MTHFR genes
- Lack of mobility
- Hormone changes – e.g. contraceptive pill
- Age – elderly have an increased risk
- Surgery or injury
- Infections, inflammatory disease, diabetes
This test detects mutations in the F5, F2 and MTHFR genes that are associated with an increased thrombotic risk.
Reducing the risk of a blood clot
There are several ways to reduce thrombotic risk:
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Follow a healthy diet
- Increase blood flow through physical exercise
- Avoid extended periods of immobility
- Avoid smoking
- Reduce homocysteine levels by obtaining plenty of folate and other B vitamins
- Wear compression stocking on long plane journeys
- Seek medical treatment (e.g. anticoagulants) for very high risk individuals