Normally, blood clots are gel-like clumps of blood that plug an injured blood vessel. But if you develop blood clots when you aren’t injured or if blood clots don’t properly dissolve, your blood is considered hypercoagulable. This hypercoagulable state is called thrombophilia.
Many forms of thrombophilia are mild and may never be diagnosed. However, some patients with repeated episodes of blood clotting require daily blood-thinning medication. When not properly identified and treated, complications from thrombophilia can be life threatening.
What are the symptoms of thrombophilia (hypercoagulable state)?
Thrombophilia doesn’t cause any symptoms. Patients might not even know they have it unless they develop a blood clot. Symptoms of a blood clot vary depending on its location but may include:
- Vision problems
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Sudden severe headache
- Warmth, swelling or pain in a limb
The most common conditions associated with thrombophilia are deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that usually occurs in the legs. The blood clot can break off and move (embolize) through the body to arteries in the lungs. Once it reaches the lungs, it becomes a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). A pulmonary embolism requires emergency medical treatment.
What causes thrombophilia (hypercoagulable state)?
Thrombophilia can be inherited from a parent to a child or acquired from surgery, trauma, medications or a medical condition.
Some risk factors for developing a blood clot include:
- Birth control medications
- Hormone replacement therapy medications
How is thrombophilia (hypercoagulable state) diagnosed?
After discussing you and your family’s medical history, your doctor will order blood tests. Testing can be more or less extensive. While these tests can identify the condition, they can’t always determine the cause. However, genetic testing can help identify other family members with thrombophilia.
How is thrombophilia (hypercoagulable state) treated?
There is no specific treatment for thrombophilia unless it’s caused by an underlying medical illness. For patients with reoccurring blood clots, taking anticoagulation (blood thinning) medication on a long-term basis can reduce the risk of further episodes. These medications need to be taken with care as major bleeding can occur. Thrombophilia can be successfully managed with medication and changing your lifestyle.
To lower your risk of a blood clot, some lifestyle changes you can make are to:
- Stop smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid long periods of inactivity or bed rest