Inability to Control Formation of Blood Clots

Blood clotting, also called coagulation, is a normal process that occurs when platelets and proteins in your blood clump together and forms a blood clot. The process helps your body control bleeding and heal broken blood vessels. When healing is complete, your body breaks down the clot, it dissolves and is removed.

A blood clotting disorder, called a thrombophilia, causes blood clots to form easily and prevents them from dissolving properly. If a blood clot forms inside or travels to arteries or veins in your heart, brain, lungs, kidneys or limbs, it can block blood flow and cause serious damage or even death.

There are two categories of blood clotting disorders:

  • Acquired disorders are caused by a different condition or illness.
  • Genetic disorders are inherited and present at birth.

Blood Clot Risks and Prevention

  • Bed rest or being bedridden for a long time
  • Being over 60 years of age
  • Bone fractures and other injuries or trauma
  • Cancer and cancer treatment
  • Genetic or inherited blood clotting disorder
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Medication such as birth control pills that contain estrogen
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sitting four or more hours without walking or exercise
  • Smoking and other tobacco use
  • Surgery, including knee or hip replacement

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

When a blood clot blocks the flow of blood, it’s called a thrombotic episode. The symptoms of a thrombotic episode vary depending on where the block is located. For example:

  • Abdomen - abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting
  • Brain, heart and other organs - blood clots may form in and around your heart, leading to a heart attack. Pieces of a blood clot can break free and create an embolus that blocks blood flow to arteries in other organs such as your brain or kidneys. Symptoms may include:
    • Brain (stroke) - seizures, sudden headache, trouble with speech or vision, weakness or paralysis on one side of the face or body
    • Heart - chest pains, shortness of breath, pain in left arm, sweating, feeling faint or nauseous
  • Leg or arm - clots can form in the deep vein of your leg. This is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Although less common than clots in leg blood vessels, clots can also develop in your upper arm. Common symptoms include:
    • Discoloration
    • Pain, tenderness and warm sensation 
    • Swelling
  • Lungs - if the clot is in your lungs, it’s called a pulmonary embolism (PE). Common symptoms of PE include:
    • Chest pain that worsens with a deep breath
    • Coughing up blood
    • Lightheadedness
    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
    • Sudden difficulty breathing

Tests and Treatment for Blood  Clotting Disorders

Specialized bloodwork is often used to diagnose blood clotting disorders. Blood tests may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) - measures the size and number of red and white blood cells and platelets
  • D-dimer - determines if your body is making or breaking down clots
  • Genetic testing - for disorders such as Factor V Leiden
  • Testing for deficiencies such as antithrombin
  • Testing for antiphospholipid antibody syndrome
  • Kidney and liver function - determines if there is kidney or liver disease or damage

Other tests may be needed to detect blood clots, including:

  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Angiogram

Blood clotting disorders can often be treated effectively with medication and other care options. If blood clots form, care is needed immediately to prevent further health complications like stroke, heart attack or kidney damage.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Thrombophilia Care

Comprehensive, Compassionate Care

Penn State Health provides specialized testing, treatment and management for numerous blood clotting disorders.

Our unique services include:

  • Access to skilled ultrasonographers and radiologists
  • Anticoagulation Management Clinic
  • Infusion room treatments
  • Laboratory testing services
  • Specialized Thrombosis Clinic

Our medical team is consistently recognized nationally through Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Doctors awards. Our specialists also participate in worldwide conferences and speaking engagements in countries including India, Korea, Germany, Japan and others.

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