Signs and Symptoms of Blood Clots

Knowing the signs and symptoms of blood clots may mean the difference between life and death for you or someone you know. A blood clot that occurs in a deep vein in your body – usually in the arm or leg – is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT.

Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), or Blood Clot in the Leg or Arm:
  • Swelling, often in one limb
  • Pain or tenderness, not caused by an injury (sometimes feels like a cramping, or “charley horse”)
  • Skin that is warm to the touch
  • Changes in your skin color, such as turning white, red, blue or purple
What My DVT Felt Like

At first, I felt like I had pulled a muscle in my calf or was experiencing normal running pain associated with plantar fasciitis. Next, it turned to excruciating pain that extended from the back of my knee down to my ankle whenever I put any amount of weight on it. I was nearly dragging my leg. I have said it previously and I will say it again because it is the only way I can describe it: It felt like someone had the soft, fleshy skin behind my knee in a vice and just kept on tightening. Also, the side of my calf was tender to the touch, but not overly warm, now I know that soreness was primary along the femoral vein. I did not notice any swelling, especially in my lower leg.

You need to know in about half of all cases, deep vein thrombosis occurs without any noticeable symptoms. It is also important to note that a DVT can occur not only in the leg, but the groin, arm, abdomen or other deep vein(s) as well. 

If you have signs or symptoms of DVT, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible, or seek immediate medical attention.

A DVT is dangerous because it can break apart and travel through your bloodstream. A blood clot that travels to the lung is called pulmonary embolism, or PE, and is a life-threatening condition because it can restrict or eliminate blood flow and oxygen to the lung(s). When a DVT and PE occur together, it is known as venous thromboembolism, or VTE.

Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism (PE), or Blood Clot in the Lung:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort, especially if it worsens when you take a deep breath, cough or lie down
  • Feeling light headed or dizzy, or fainting
  • Fast or irregular heart rate, or a rapid pulse
  • Coughing, or coughing up blood
  • Some people experience severe anxiety or feel like “something is really wrong”
What My PE Felt Like

At first, I honestly thought this was a really bad side stitch or pulled muscle. Over time, it worsened. A pretty good indicator that it was not a side stitch was that it did not happen while I was running/exercising. As time went on, the pain became nearly unbearable and not only that, it became hard to breath. I could not lie down at all – the pain was excruciating. I never really felt chest pains, but I did feel like someone was stabbing me in the side with a sharp object or jamming their thumb into my ribs. My breathing became shallow and I could only say two or three words at a time. The best indicator? I could not draw in a deep breath – very similar to when you are trying to catch your breath during a hard or hot run, but it doesn’t go away with rest or pain medications.

If you have signs or symptoms of PE, seek emergency medical care immediately.