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What are the Most Common Blood Clot Disorders?
Blood clot disorders are relatively rare but can create serious health problems. Clotting disorders can cause blood clots in the veins of the arms or legs, leading to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolisms and blood clots in the brain, intestines and kidneys that can all lead to serious complications. Blood clots in arteries are uncommon.
How does clotting work?
When a person is injured or cut in a way that breaks the skin, they bleed. When this occurs, critical components of a person’s blood start to work to slow and stop the bleeding. Platelets, blood plasma including fibrinogen and other factors help the body to stop blood loss. These different components work in different ways, but they accomplish the same thing: thickening the blood to form a clot so that excess bleeding will stop.
Without the ability to clot, a person is in danger of losing dangerous amounts of blood whenever injured, as their blood will not clot and may continue to flow unless medically attended to. This condition is called hemophilia. Clotting as part of the healing process is normal and to be expected. However, a person’s blood should not clot while just moving through the body. If someone experiences blood clots for no external reason, they are said to be experiencing a hypercoagulable state, meaning their blood clots abnormally.
Most common blood clotting disorders
In a condition called Factor V Leiden, the body loses the ability to regulate a blood-clotting chemical known as Factor V. Because of a genetic flaw, the body cannot create enough of a specific protein that ordinarily keeps Factor V working as it should. When Factor V is unchecked, blood clotting lasts for much longer than is typical.
A genetic disorder called prothrombin gene mutation results in patients who have an overabundance of a specific blood-clotting protein called prothrombin (or Factor II). Prothrombin causes blood clots to form when there is no need for them.
Deficiencies in antithrombin and certain proteins (called Protein C and Protein S) are much rarer, occurring in less than 1% of the population. These deficiencies cause abnormal clotting, and patients typically develop clinical symptoms in early adulthood. Patients with these deficiencies remain at an increased risk for abnormal or disruptive blood clots throughout their lives.
How are blood clot disorders treated?
Patients who have blood clotting disorders will generally only require treatment when an abnormal blood clot occurs. Abnormal clots are treated with anticoagulant drugs to help prevent additional clots and to help safely dissolve existing clots. Medications such as Warfarin (or Coumadin®), Heparin and Fondaparinux (sold under the name Arixtra®) have been used for a significant amount of time to treat these conditions. Newer blood-thinning drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration include dabigatran (sold as Pradaxa®), rivaroxaban (under the name Xarelto®) and apixaban (which is sold as Eliquis®).
Patients being treated for any of these conditions will be consulted by a doctor regarding benefits, side effects and risks these medications may cause. A doctor will determine the best type of medication for a patient on a case-by-case basis. The kind of medication, how long it will need to be taken and the kind of follow-up treatment needed will all be determined by a doctor during diagnosis.
If you or someone you know suffers from a blood clotting disorder, newer and more effective treatments may be available. To speak with a qualified health professional in your area, schedule an appointment.
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