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  • Writer's pictureTexas Vein Health

Thrombosis and Embolism

Sometimes medical terminology can get confusing. There are very specific terms for different things. An example of this are the terms "thrombosis" and "embolism". They are very similar but slightly different. Thrombosis is when a blood clot travels through your vascular system and gets stuck. This reduces the flow of blood getting where it needs to go. Embolism, on the other hand, is similar in the fact that it is a blood clot (or foreign body) that gets stuck in your vascular system. The difference with embolism is the flow of blood is completely shut off where as the thrombosis is just reduced blood flow.

Both of these medical conditions are very serious and require medical attention. As we get older our risk for a thrombus or embolus gets higher. Also, if you are sedentary or don't exercise your risk is increased. A pulmonary embolism is one of the more dangerous kinds of embolism. The clot gets stuck in the vessels going to your lungs. If the clot is big enough it can stop the oxygen exchange in your lungs and cause you to pass out or even worse.

Some signs and symptoms of embolism are:

  • Pain, swelling or discomfort in your legs (calf) after sitting for a long period of time

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Clammy or discolored skin

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Signs and symptoms of a thrombosis are:

  • Unexplained pain or swelling in one of your legs, foot, or ankle

  • Warm or hot skin where the pain is

  • Cramping in the leg with pain

The first thing to do if you suspect you might have a thrombosis or an embolism is to contact your doctor. Your doctor may advise you to go to the emergency room or to come in for an appointment. In order to prevent these kinds of conditions, here are a few things you can do, especially when you travel. You can drink plenty of fluids. Make sure not to stay in one position for more than 30 minutes. Move around and move your legs a lot. Get up from sitting and walk around a little. This gets the blood moving so it doesn't have time to clot. Your doctor may even tell you to wear compression stockings. You can also elevate your legs, if possible.

To learn more about vascular obstructions, here are some links:

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