Cavernous sinus thrombosis is a rare ailment characterised by blood clots in the cavernous sinuses, that can prove to be fatal if left unattended. The cavernous sinuses are essentially bare structures resembling vacant cavities, situated internally at the bottom of the brain, towards the rear end of the eye sockets. Their primary function is permitting the unobstructed passage of deoxygenated blood via the veins stemming from the regions of the brain and face, back to the heart.
Chiefly instigated by an infection that develops in the vicinity of the face or head, such as sinusitis, microbial contamination in the ear, tooth pain with dental discomfort, cavernous sinus thrombosis leads to unbearable headaches in the affected person. It is sometimes accompanied by swollen eyes and mental confusion. If the signs are not reported at once to a doctor, this blood clotting ailment could result in grave conditions such as irreversible vision disorders and deep vein thrombosis in the legs. Thus, it is necessary to understand the causes, symptoms, complications of cavernous sinus thrombosis, to provide timely medical diagnosis and treatment, to rectify the perilous condition in the patient.
Causes Of Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis
The most common reason for blood clots or thrombosis in the cavernous sinuses is infections, primarily triggered by Staphylococcus strain of bacteria. The clotting of blood occurs as an internal defence mechanism of the body to avert further transmission of infection, but this, in turn, obstructs the passage of deoxygenated blood out of the brain and to the heart via the veins in the region.
Certain maladies that tend to instigate bacterial infection in the cavernous sinuses include:
- Oral ailments of the teeth, gums and mouth
- Infections in the ears
- Inflammatory conditions in the skin triggered by bacterial contamination, like dermatitis, boils, eczema, pus-filled injuries and abscesses
- Infectious illnesses stemming from surgical procedures and other topical treatments in the facial region
Nevertheless, bacterial infections that prompt sicknesses in the vicinities of the head, eyes, nose, ears and face are not the only factors that cause cavernous sinus thrombosis. Other conditions that give rise to blood clots in the cavernous sinuses consist of:
- Fungal infections like aspergillosis and mucormycosis
- Autoimmune disorders like lupus
- Intense wounds and direct damage to the head
Although cavernous sinus thrombosis does not present any noticeable signs initially, the typical indications of underlying infections in the interior layers of the face and head appear after about 5 – 10 days post the onset of illness. These comprise:
- Excruciating headaches
- Pain in the facial muscles and near the eyes
- High fever
- Poor mental clarity
- Hazy vision, with objects materializing in double
- Bulging in the eyelids
- Paralysis of the eye muscles, with drooping eyelids like in trachoma
If left untreated or if the symptoms are not reported immediately, then cavernous sinus thrombosis could lead to serious health anomalies. These include permanent eye concerns, harmful clots in the internal tissues of the lungs, legs and even invade the brain cells, leading to life-threatening conditions like sepsis, meningitis. It is, therefore, crucial to seek professional medical care as soon as symptoms of cavernous sinus thrombosis are recognised in an individual.
The physician records the complete medical history of the patient, besides taking note of any recent infections encountered by them. To verify the presence of an internal blood clot, the healthcare provider carries out imaging analyses of the sinuses, like MRI and CT scans. A sample of blood is also collected from the patient and studied under a microscope to determine if any bacterial strains are present that are causing the infection and blood clots in the cavernous sinuses.
After the medical expert confirms the diagnosis of cavernous sinus thrombosis, the patient is immediately hospitalized. Since bacterial infections most likely trigger these detrimental blood clots, antibiotics are administered in high doses through intravenous injections over many weeks.
The patient is regularly monitored, to ensure that the internal blood clots are gradually diminishing. Also, blood-thinning medications are administered, to cease ongoing internal thrombosis processes and prevent the formation of further blood clots. Promptly reporting the symptoms to a doctor, followed by precise diagnosis and professional medical aid in a hospital ensure the halt of infection spread within the body and help the affected patient recover well.