Clots in the veins usually form in the lower part of the limbs after trauma or surgery. Sometimes, however, a throat infection may cross over into the jugular veins and poison the bloodstream, activating platelets. When this occurs, recognising the warning signs is essential to survival.
Lemierre’s syndrome is characterised by thrombosis in the jugular vein, a major blood vessel that stretches from the head to the upper chest.
Though the condition is severe, it has a high survival rate among people who receive treatment swiftly.
The disease occurs when bacteria from a throat infection traverses into the jugular veins, causing the infection to spread.
In the initial stages, this may cause a sore throat, a lump on one side of the throat or pain and swelling in one side of the neck.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting all of the above symptoms checked by a doctor immediately if they emerge, as the illness is severe and can affect anyone.
On its website, the health portal describes the case of Morgan Spencer, who developed Lemierre’s syndrome within days of noticing a sore throat.
Upon examination, the 19-year-old’s doctor also discovered “many septic blood clots in her lungs,” reported the CDC.
Professor Mark Whiteley, a leading venous surgeon and the founder of the Whiteley Clinic explained: “In most patients with deep vein thrombosis (a clot in the deep veins) the clot stays in the leg and does not move.
“However, if the diagnosis is delayed or left untreated, the clot can cause scar tissue in the wall, damaging the deep veins permanently.
“This can result in swollen, discoloured and painful legs, and sometimes leg ulcers, a condition called post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS).
“In more serious cases, deep vein thrombosis can again lead to pulmonary embolism.”
According to the report, Morgan had one large blood clot in her internal jugular vein, parts of which had been breaking off into her lungs, causing her upper body pain.
She also had fluid in and around her lungs, making it hard for her to breathe.
“She was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU), where she stayed for three days,” explains the CDC.
Her mother, Donya Spencer, described the event as the “scariest night” of her life, adding: “She was so sick, and I was terrified that she would die.”
After a slow recovery Morgan’s health stabilised thanks to weeks of strong antibiotics, administered intravenously.
As her body fought the infection, however, her pain persisted and she coughed up a significant amount of blood.
“That was the only time I really thought – I’m going to die,” said Meghan.
How to prevent Lemierre’s syndrome:
Lemierre’s syndrome is caused by the formation of a bacteria in the throat, known as Fusobacterium necrophorum.
It is more likely to affect young adults and healthy teenagers by entering the mucus membranes.
“Oral hygiene and dental cleaning may reduce the density of oral colonisation with Fusobacterium species,” explains the Red Book.
Practising good oral hygiene is widely recommended as it can fight other long-term complications, like periodontitis.