Thrombosis – A Silent Killer


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There are a number of medical diseases which one needs to be weary of but one of the most dangerous is thrombosis. Two reasons account for its deadliness. First, few people know about it. Second, it kills silently.

Thrombosis is a disease in which the constituents of blood clot to occlude the lumen of blood vessels. The human body is composed of blood vessels which can be compared to tubes. Blood flows through these tubes and provides nutrients to different parts of the body. Naturally, if blood flows it needs a structure to provide propulsion. Yes, you guessed it, the heart provide this force.

In order to circulate, blood needs an uninterrupted medium. The blood vessels provide this medium. In thrombosis, this uninterrupted medium becomes interrupted. What happens is that the elements making up blood begin to adhere to the inner surface of the blood vessel.

Recall our example of a tube. A tube has inner walls. Now imagine sticking chewing gum on the inner surface. Continue to add new pieces of chewing gum to the ones already attached to the inner surface. What happens? You get a mass which grows with each subsequent piece of gum and eventually occludes the lumen of the tube.

Similarly, elements of blood, namely platelets, attach to the inner surface of the blood vessel and grow into a mass. With time the size of the mass increases to close the lumen of the blood vessel preventing blood from traveling throughout the body. As you can imagine, once blood cannot travel throughout the body, it cannot nourish different parts.

But the story does not end here. This mass, known as a thrombus, does not stop. Instead, it continues to grow even after it has shut off the lumen of the blood vessel. Now it moves along the length of the blood vessel. This leads to large portions of vessels to become occluded. Furthermore, pieces can break off from this thrombus and travel to distant parts of the body. When the traveling piece reaches a blood vessel which has a small diameter it becomes lodged in the vessel and obstructs blood flow. This often takes place in the vessels carrying blood to the heart. Once these vessels are blocked, the heart does not receive blood, and the person suffers a massive heart attack.

The chilling part is that it is silent. There are virtually no symptoms and before you know it, it’s too late. Once way to check if you suffer from this condition is to squeeze your calf muscles. If they feel tender you need to consult a doctor. Of course, absence of tenderness does not mean that you are free from thrombosis, but this condition mostly develops in the lower extremities. Therefore, this test can provide useful information.

All in all, time has shown that one needs to get regular medical checkups. The best way to be sure you are free from diseases which kill silently is by getting a routine check up. Yes, it costs money. But what good is money if you lose your life over it?

Zeeshan Parvez, a fourth year medical student, has an unyielding passion for breaking down complex subjects so that everyone can understand them. Having suffered from severe depression for five years, he now runs Depression Rectified, a free website offering a rich resource of articles and counseling on combating depression.


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