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Thrombosis Q&A

Dr Salim Shafeek is a Consultant Haematologist with The Droitwich Spa Hospital in Droitwich, Worcestershire.

He is the deputy chair for the trust wide thrombosis committee and is actively involved in the Thromboprophylaxis program and risk assessment for the acute trust and community hospitals for Worcestershire PCT.

Here we ask him more about thrombosis including, what the causes are, symptoms and how it can be prevented.

What is thrombosis and are there different types?

Dr Salim Shafeek

Thrombosis is a blood clot within a blood vessel. It happens when a blood clot forms and blocks a vein or an artery, obstructing or stopping the flow of blood.
A blood clot can occur anywhere in the body’s bloodstream.

There are two main types: venous thromboembolism (VTE), which is a blood clot that develops in a vein and arterial thrombosis (AT), which is a blood clot that develops in an artery

One of the most common types of venous thromboembolism is deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is a blood clot in one of the deep veins of the body, usually one of the larger veins in your leg.

What causes thrombosis and are some groups of people more at risk than others?

Dr Salim Shafeek

Anyone can be affected by blood clots, although it is more common in adults over 40 years old. As well as age, a number of other factors make developing blood clots more likely. They include your family history, being inactive for long periods of time, having damaged blood vessels as a result of infection, surgery or inflammation, having an increased tendency for the blood to clot due to certain medical conditions or taking the contraceptive pill.

Going into hospital is the biggest risk factor for blood clots in a vein. Although being in an aeroplane is often considered the major cause of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), two thirds of blood clots actually happen in hospital.

Pregnant woman also have an increased risk of developing a blood clot in a vein, depending on their age, weight and number of previous pregnancies. This risk continues for at least six weeks after giving birth.

Are there some symptoms that people should be looking out for?

Dr Salim Shafeek

A DVT most commonly develops in a deep vein below the knee in the calf. The typical symptoms are:

• Pain and tenderness of the calf
• Swelling of the calf
• Colour and temperature changes of the calf. Blood that would normally go through the blocked vein is diverted to outer veins so the calf may then become warm and red

How can thrombosis be prevented?

Dr Salim Shafeek

There are several things you can do to help prevent a blood clot. Blood clots can be treated if they are spotted in time. However, preventing them from happening in the first place is often the preferred approach. Making lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet, increasing the amount of exercise you do and stopping smoking if you smoke, can also help to significantly lower your risk.

Could supplements (in particular pycnogenol, ginkgo biloba, Omega 3) help with thrombosis?

Dr Salim Shafeek

Although therapeutic diets are widely suggested for prophylaxis and treatment of arterial cardiovascular disease, healthy nutrition as an approach to prophylaxis and treatment of VTE has never been officially recommended.

Acting U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Steven Gaston noted in his call to action to prevent VTE that the Longitudinal Investigation of Thromboembolism Etiology (LITE) study found a diet with more fruits, vegetables, and fish, and less red and processed meat to be associated with a lower VTE incidence. He suggested further studies on the impact of diet and other lifestyle changes regarding VTE.