When a clot forms in an artery or vein, the blood vessel can become clogged.

What is it

Thrombosis is the formation within a blood vessel of a blood clot: the thrombus. The latter consists of fibrin, platelets, red and white blood cells.

Thrombus can form anywhere in the circulatory system and, when it develops, it can clog the vessel, blocking normal blood flow.

There are two main types of thrombosis:

  • venous thrombosis, when the clot forms inside a vein;
  • arterial thrombosis, when the clot forms inside an artery.

Classification of thrombi

In addition to the type of vessel in which they form, thrombi can be classified according to their composition and size.

As for the composition are distinguished in:

Type of thrombus Composition Localization
White trumpets Formed by platelets, fibrin, few red and white blood cells Yes They typically develop in the arteries, where the speed of flow blood does not allow the thrombus to capture red blood cells
Red trumpets Formed by platelets, fibrin and high amounts of red and white blood cells They develop mainly inside the veins, due to slower blood flow;

There are also the so-called variegated thrombi, which have an alternation of light and red areas, which reflects moments of low blood flow velocity (in which the thrombus has incorporated red blood cells) and moments of high flow velocity.

According to the dimensions they are divided into:

  • Obstructive thrombi, which occludes the entire vessel;
  • Parietal thrombi, which partially occlude the vessel;
  • Straddle thrombus, positioned at the ‘horse’ of a vascular bifurcation.

Causes of thrombosis

To cause the formation of a thrombus is an alteration of the balance that regulates blood clotting.

The coagulation process is regulated by a cascade of multiple chemical reactions in which different elements of the blood participate, including platelets and vitamin K.

As a result, there can be countless triggers at the origin of thrombosis. The most frequent are:

  • endothelial damage (the endothelium is the inner wall of blood vessels)
  • stasis or turbulence of normal blood flow
  • hypercoagulability of blood

Typically, in arterial and cardiac thrombosis, endothelial damage (caused by a phenomenon of atherosclerosis) and flow turbulence prevail. On the contrary, in venous thrombi the presence of blood stasis plays a fundamental role.

Consequences of thrombosis

The occlusion of an arterial blood vessel prevents nutrients and oxygen from reaching the tissues supplied by that vessel, thus causing a phenomenon called necrosis (infarction) of the tissue itself.

It can happen that a thrombus “arises” at a certain point in the circulatory system, and then moves with the blood and goes to occlude a vessel far from the place of origin.

Prevention of thrombosis

There are several things you can do to prevent the development of a thrombus. First of all, improving eating habits, doing more physical activity, quitting smoking.

Although it is true that in this pathology there is an important family component, and therefore a sort of genetic predisposition, it is also true that lifestyles can do a lot in terms of prevention.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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