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Blood clots are usually a bodily response to injury, but often, their formation is unwarranted. In either circumstance, the clot is unlikely to cause trouble so long as it remains still and allows blood to flow around it. Sometimes, however, clots dislodge and travel to the lungs, causing oxygen flow to come to a complete standstill (pulmonary embolism). Though blood clots generally form in the lower limbs first, they have also been known to affect the face.
A blood clot that forms in the face is medically referred to as cavernous sinus thrombosis; a life-threatening condition associated with several symptoms.
The NHS explains: “The cavernous sinus are hollow spaces located under the brain, behind each eye socket.
“A major blood vessel called the jugular vein carries blood through the cavernous sinuses away from the brain.”
When a blood clot forms inside a sinus, it is usually because an infection has developed somewhere in the face or skull and needs to be contained.
However, “clots can develop without infection,” warns the NHS.
A less common cause for a blood clot in the cavernous sinuses is severe injury, that triggers blood clotting mechanisms.
Regardless of the cause, a blood clot can cause immediate damage to the brain, eyes, and nerves running in between them.
This is why in 50 to 90 percent of cases, patients experience changes to their vision first, including sensitivity to light or other visual disturbances.
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The signs tend to come on acutely or in a more progressive manner, spanning several or more days.
Swelling or bulging of the eyes may also occur in the event of cavernous sinus thrombosis.
This is due to decreased draining from the facial veins, which leads to a collection of fluid around the eyes. The eyelids may begin to droop as a result.
One of the earliest and most reliable symptoms of the condition is a severe headache that worsens, even with pain medicine.
Any delay in the treatment of these symptoms can cause lasting damage to the brain and other organs.
In early reports, the Eurasian Journal of Medicine reported that just over 11 percent of cavernous sinus thrombi are associated with pulmonary embolism.
More often, however, pulmonary embolism results from a blood clot that’s formed in the lower limbs.
Docotor Andrei Kindzelski, an NIH blood disease expert explained: “Deep vein thrombosis has classic symptoms – for example, swelling, pain, warmth, and redness on the leg. But about 30-40 percent of cases go unnoticed since they don’t have typical symptoms.”
“Usually people who develop deep vein thrombosis have some level of thrombophilia, which means their blood clots more rapidly or easily.”
Chest pain or discomfort that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough is among the most common signs that a blood clot has reached the lungs.
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