Acute Thrombophilia

What is acute thrombophilia?

Acute thrombophilia is a condition when your blood clots more easily than normal. Thrombophilia can be acquired or inherited. Acquired thrombophilia happens if you have a medical condition that causes a blood clot. Examples are pregnancy, obesity, and surgery. If you were born with a blood-clotting problem, then you have inherited thrombophilia.

What increases my risk for acute thrombophilia?

  • Age: Being 50 years old or older increases your risk. Being 70 years old or older doubles that risk.

  • Immobility: Being bedridden or sitting still for a long time, such as during a long airplane flight.

  • Medical conditions: Cancer, heart attack, or an infection can increase your risk. People with blood type A, B, or AB also are at higher risk.

  • Medicines: The most common medicines associated with thrombophilia include hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and birth control pills. HRT is used in women going through menopause. Ask your caregiver for more information about these and other medicines that can increase clot formation.

  • Obesity: If you are obese, you are at higher risk.

  • Pregnancy: Women are more likely to have clotting problems during pregnancy and right after giving birth. This may be due to increased levels of hormones present in the blood with pregnancy.

  • Surgery or trauma: Surgery puts you at a higher risk for thrombophilia. Broken bones in the legs or hips and injuries to the spinal cord may also put you at risk.

What are the signs and symptoms of acute thrombophilia?

You may not know you have this condition until a blood clot has formed. You may have any of the following:

  • Pain, warmth, redness, or swelling in a leg or arm

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough

  • Hard, bulging veins that you can see or feel under the skin

  • Purple skin or open sores

  • Confusion or you cannot think clearly

  • A miscarriage

What are the risks of acute thrombophilia?

A blood clot that forms inside a blood vessel is called a thrombosis. These clots can prevent normal blood flow and decrease the blood supply to your organs. This can lead to serious and life-threatening conditions, such as stroke or heart attack. Ask your caregiver about the following risks of acute thrombophilia:

  • Deep venous thrombosis: Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition when a clot forms in a deep vein, such as the veins of the legs or pelvis. This can cause pain, swelling, and damage to the tissues around the clot.

  • Pregnancy problems: If you are pregnant, clots may form in the placenta. The placenta is the organ that connects the mother to the baby in the uterus. Clots in the placenta can reduce blood flow to the baby. Women with thrombophilia may miscarry or their babies may be smaller than normal.

  • Vascular insufficiency: Clots in arteries can reduce blood flow to areas of the body. This usually happens in the feet or legs. It can cause skin lesions or wounds. Clots can also interfere with the blood flow to the heart. Blood that pools in the legs can lead to a DVT.

  • Thromboembolism: Clots that form in one part of the body can also break free and travel to another part of the body. This is called an embolus. When an embolus travels to a different part of your body, it can cause the following:

    • Stroke: Blood clots may prevent the flow of blood in your brain and cause a stroke.

    • Heart attack: A clot that travels to the heart can cause a heart attack. The heart muscle may be damaged when its blood supply is decreased.

    • Venous thromboembolism: This is also called VTE. With VTE, you may have any of the following conditions:

      • Pulmonary embolism: This is a clot that travels to your lungs. It can reduce blood flow to your lungs and cause trouble breathing. This can be a life-threatening condition and it can happen suddenly. Ask your caregiver for more information about pulmonary embolism.

      • Pulmonary hypertension: This happens when blood clots block the arteries in your lungs. This causes your blood pressure to rise.

      • Heart failure: This happens when a clot causes the pressure inside the pulmonary artery to increase. The pulmonary artery carries blood from the heart to the lungs.

How is acute thrombophilia diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask if you have had a blood clot before. Tell him when it started and how severe it was. He may ask if a family member has had a blood clot before. Tell him if you smoke or have had surgery. He may ask what medicines you take. Tell him if you have rashes, or muscle and joint pain. If you are female, he may ask about your pregnancies and if you take any hormone medicine. You may need blood tests to show how fast your blood is clotting and if you are at risk. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

How is acute thrombophilia treated?

Treatment depends on the type of thrombophilia you have. Treatment may last from 3 months to 12 months or even longer. The goal of treatment is to relieve your symptoms and prevent a clot from forming. You may need any of the following medicines:

  • Blood thinners: Blood thinners, such as heparin, help stop clots from forming. Blood thinners may be given before, during, and after a surgery or procedure. They may be given to treat a clot or to prevent a clot.

  • Antiplatelets: These are pills, such as aspirin or clopidogrel. They work by making your platelets (a type of blood cell) less able to form blood clots.

  • Clot busters: This medicine is given in an emergency to break apart blood clots. It is usually given to treat a stroke, pulmonary embolus, or heart attack.

  • Vitamin K antagonists: This includes medicines such as warfarin. They are a long-term treatment to prevent clots from forming. You may need to have blood tests while you use these medicines. Tell your caregiver if you know or think you are pregnant. These medicines may harm a fetus.

How can acute thrombophilia be prevented?

  • Change body positions often: When you travel in an airplane or motor vehicle, change your sitting position often. If you are bedridden due to a chronic illness, ask other family members to help change your position regularly.

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

  • Get plenty of exercise: Talk to your caregiver about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise can decrease your blood pressure and improve your health.

  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Quitting smoking will improve your health and the health of those around you. If you smoke, ask for information about how to stop.

  • Wear pressure stockings: These are tight elastic stockings that squeeze the lower part of your legs to improve circulation. This helps keep blood clots from forming.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You are shaking and you have chills.

  • You have hard, bulging veins on your arms or legs.

  • You have skin changes, such as wounds or reddish blue spots.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek help immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and are short of breath.

  • You have chest pain. You may have more pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.

  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:

    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face

    • Weakness in an arm or leg

    • Confusion or difficulty speaking

    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:

    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns

    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm

    • Trouble breathing

    • Nausea or vomiting

    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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