Blood clots: signs, symptoms, and complications

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The signs and symptoms of a blood clot depend on its location, in a vein or artery, and its size. These can include swelling, tenderness, and warmth of the skin, and even chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness. The severity of symptoms also varies depending on the cause .

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Frequent symptoms

There may be a blood clot and no symptoms (such as a clot in the kidney). Very often, blood clots in large veins or arteries cause symptoms, often severe, that require immediate attention .

Blood clots can form in different veins and arteries throughout the body, and symptoms depend on where they are located.

Symptoms of blood clots that suggest deep vein thrombosis (DVT) include :

  • Heat in the area of the clot
  • Swelling that can make one leg larger than the other.
  • Pain when touching the area around the clot
  • Mild to moderate pain that gets worse over several hours or days.

Symptoms of a blood clot that may indicate a heart attack :

  • Chest pain or discomfort: Most heart attacks are associated with discomfort in the central or left side of the chest. The discomfort usually lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can be pressure, tightness, a feeling of fullness, or pain. It can also look like heartburn or indigestion.
  • Upper body discomfort: You may feel pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper abdomen.
  • Shortness of breath – This may be your only symptom, or it may occur earlier or with chest pain or discomfort. This can happen when you are resting or doing little physical activity.
  • Breaking in a cold sweat
  • Unusual tired feeling for no reason, sometimes for several days (especially women)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden lightheadedness or lightheadedness

Symptoms of a blood clot that may indicate a stroke :

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body.
  • Sudden loss, blurry or blurred vision
  • Difficulty speaking or inability to speak
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Dizziness, drowsiness, falls, or lack of coordination
  • Nausea or vomiting, especially if accompanied by any of the above symptoms.

Complications and subgroups

Blood clots can cause the following complications, but not always. You may or may not experience any of the common clot symptoms before they appear if they are:

Pulmonary embolism: Sometimes a clot in the lower extremities or pelvis (due to a deep vein thrombosis) breaks off and travels to the lungs, making it difficult for blood to flow to the lungs. Symptoms include sudden and severe shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest pain, profuse sweating, fainting, bluish color of the lips and fingertips, and a cough that can produce bloody phlegm (mucus) .

Pulmonary hypertension : There may be multiple blood clots that block the smaller pulmonary arteries but do not cause any symptoms. This can lead to high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries, which in turn puts extra pressure on the heart, which can lead to heart failure.

Certain health conditions, including diabetes and atherosclerosis , increase the risk of blood clots, as does smoking. It is especially important to be vigilant if you are taking birth control pills, pregnant or postpartum, taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or have recently had surgery .

When to contact a healthcare provider

If you have symptoms of DVT, call your doctor right away. If symptoms indicate a heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism, call 911 or go to the emergency room, as these are life-threatening conditions.

Frequently asked questions

  • Symptoms of blood clots differ based on the area of the body where they occur and can include chest pain and shortness of breath, swelling, warmth, pain, or tenderness in a specific area, such as the leg. Clots are usually a sign of a serious condition and require immediate medical attention.

  • Blood clots form naturally in your body when, for example, you receive a cut or other minor injury. They really dissolve when they are no longer needed. However, blood clots that cause more serious or even life-threatening conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis , stroke, or heart attack, may require medical treatment to dissolve.

  • Yes: bleeding disorders are a relatively common complication of Covid-19 . These blood clots can be the result of bed rest during hospitalization, inflammation associated with an infection, or an increase in blood clotting (clotting) proteins.

Guide to Discussing Blood Clots with Your Doctor

Get our printable guide to your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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