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What are Hypercoagulable States?

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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2016
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Hypercoagulable states is a term that refers to states in which blood is more likely to clot or coagulate. While blood normally clots as a way to stop bleeding and begin the healing process, abnormal blood clotting can block arteries and veins. This can lead to dangerous medical conditions such as deep vein thrombosis or stroke. There are different hypercoagulable states and they can be either inherited or acquired. This means the affected individual is either born with the disorder or develops it at some point later in his lifetime.

Inherited hypercoagulable states might be caused by a variety of things. The most common inherited cause of the condition is a protein called factor V Leiden. Usually, this protein helps in clotting blood under normal circumstances, but because of a genetic mutation, the protein does not break down as it should and thus increases an individual’s risk of forming abnormal blood clots. Other causes of inherited hypercoagulable states include prothrombin gene mutation and deficiencies in proteins that prevent blood clots. Examples of these proteins include antithrombin III, protein C and protein S.

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Acquired hypercoagulable states are usually caused by drugs or medical conditions; certain situations can also play a role. Drugs that might lead to the condition include birth control pills and estrogen, as well as female hormones due to hormone replacement therapy. A few examples of medical conditions include antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, cancer and recent surgery. In addition, situations that might cause hypercoagulable states include dehydration as well as lying or sitting in one place for too long, such as during bed rest or when in a car or plane.

To diagnose hypercoagulable states, a doctor will first need to know an individual’s medical history. Abnormal blood clotting, frequent miscarriages and suffering a stroke when young are signs that an individual might have the condition. If the doctor suspects the individual does indeed have the condition, he might order tests to confirm the diagnosis. Tests include the activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) test, prothrombin time (PT) test and thrombin time test. There are many other tests that a doctor might also order including those measuring antiphospholipid antibodies or protein activity.

Generally, a doctor might recommend anticoagulant medications to treat hypercoagulable states. Anticoagulant medications work by thinning the blood in order to prevent blood clots from forming. Heparin and warfarin are just two types of anticoagulant medications the doctor might prescribe.

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