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Thrombosis is the formation of a thrombus, or a blood clot, in blood vessels such as arteries or veins. The connection between thrombosis and embolism is that a thrombus can sometimes break away from its site and travel to a different location in the body. This thrombus is commonly referred to as an emboli. When an emboli lodges and blocks a blood vessel, it is said that embolism has occurred.
In deep vein thrombosis (DVT), deep veins in the leg can develop clots due to several factors. These include obesity, pregnancy, smoking, and prolonged immobilization caused by hospitalization or trauma to the leg. DVT is not often alarming, but when a clot gets dislodged from the leg vein and goes to the lungs, a pulmonary embolism may result.
Pulmonary embolism can become a life-threatening situation when a major blood vessel in the lung is blocked, causing lung tissues to die. This is why deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are often associated with each other. Treatment for an embolism in the lungs commonly involves oxygen administration, as well as anticoagulant medications, also called blood thinners.
Aside from the legs, clots can also start in other areas of the body and get lodged in the smaller blood vessels of the brain and kidneys. When thrombosis and embolism occurs in the brain, the result is often a stroke. Stroke happens because blood vessels supplying blood and oxygen to certain parts of the brain are blocked by emboli or made narrowed by thrombosis. Brain tissues can eventually die, leading to the symptoms of stroke. Symptoms include speech problems, and paralysis that mostly involves one side of the body.
Blood vessels in the kidneys may also be affected by thrombosis and embolism, often leading to long-term kidney problems, and even kidney failure. Patients with kidney problems usually experience vomiting, pain in the side of the abdomen, and nausea. Urine volume may also decrease and urine may have blood in it.
High blood pressure and diabetes usually increase an individual's risk of developing thrombosis and embolism. Other factors include obesity and elevated levels of blood cholesterol. Treatment for thrombosis and embolism often involves medications that can stop the blood from clotting. Lifestyle changes are also often encouraged, such as exercising regularly, maintaining ideal weight, stopping smoking, and eating more nutritious foods.