Phleboliths are small blood clots that calcify or harden over time. Discovered in the late 1800s and sometimes referred to as “vein stones,” these round or oval masses usually develop in the lower pelvic region, more often on the left side of the pelvic area than the right, although the reason for this is unknown. Occurring slightly more in women than in men, phleboliths are most prevalent in people over 40.
Phleboliths are the result of pressure build-up within a vein, which causes blood clots to form and calcify over time. The origin and development, or pathogenesis, of phleboliths is still not fully understood, but experts have identified several factors that contribute to their formation. These can be broken into two categories: natural causes and behavioral causes. Natural causes include aging, pregnancy, abnormal development of the veins or venous malformation, liver disease, which can cause a lack of blood flow and usually causes abdominal or intestinal phleboliths, the presence of cancer or atrial fibrillation, and diverticulitis, a digestive tract disorder. Interestingly, varicose veins are both a cause and symptom of phleboliths. In young people, phleboliths form with the growth of what are usually benign tumors.
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