Vascular Diseases and Pain
Blood Clots In the Veins
Blood clots in the veins are usually caused by:
- Long bed rest and/or immobility
- Damage to veins from injury or infection
- Damage to the valves in the vein, causing pooling near the valve flaps
- Pregnancy and hormones (such as estrogen or birth control pills)
- Genetic disorders
- Conditions causing slowed blood flow or thicker blood, such as congestive heart failure (CHF) or certain tumors
There are many types of blood clots that can occur in the veins:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot occurring in a deep vein.
- Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that breaks loose from a vein and travels to the lungs.
- Chronic venous insufficiency isn't a blood clot, but a condition that occurs when damaged vein valves or a DVT causes long-term pooling of blood and swelling in the legs. If uncontrolled, fluid will leak into the surrounding tissues in the ankles and feet, and may eventually cause skin breakdown and ulceration.
Blood Clotting Disorders
Blood clotting disorders are conditions that make the blood more likely to form blood clots in the arteries and veins. These conditions may be inherited (congenital, occurring at birth) or acquired and include:
- Elevated levels of factors in the blood which cause blood to clot (fibrinogen, factor VIII, prothrombin)
- Deficiency of natural anticoagulant (blood-thinning) proteins (antithrombin, protein C, protein S)
- Elevated blood counts
- Abnormal fibrinolysis (the breakdown of fibrin)
- Abnormal changes in the lining of the blood vessels (endothelium)
The lymphatic system is a circulatory system that includes an extensive network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes. The lymphatic system helps coordinate the immune system's function to protect the body from foreign substances.
Lymphedema is an abnormal build-up of fluid that causes swelling, most often in the arms or legs. Lymphedema develops when lymph vessels or lymph nodes are missing, impaired, damaged or removed.
Primary lymphedema is rare and is caused by the absence of certain lymph vessels at birth, or it may be caused by abnormalities in the lymphatic vessels.
Secondary lymphedema occurs as a result of a blockage or interruption that alters the lymphatic system. Secondary lymphedema can develop from an infection, malignancy, surgery, scar tissue formation, obesity, trauma, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), radiation or other cancer treatment.