What Are the Signs of a Blood Clot?


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3D illustration of blood clot disease

Depending on where in the body they occur, blood clots can cause a range of symptoms from pain to numbness, from coolness to warmth. These symptoms also won’t be the same in everyone. And sometimes, there won’t be any symptoms at all.

Blood clots in the leg can cause redness or even pale skin. Blood clots in the brain can cause difficulty walking and numbness or weakness on just one side of the body.

Blood clots are also different, depending if they develop in a vein (venous) or an artery (arterial). Venous clots may take longer to build up, while arterial clots cause symptoms immediately.

It’s important to pay attention to the signs of potential blood clots and to seek treatment as soon as possible because blood clots can be dangerous to your health.

What Are the Signs of a Blood Clot in the Leg or Arm (Deep Vein Thrombosis)?

If a blood clot in the arm or leg is small enough, you may not have any symptoms. With a large clot, your entire leg might swell. The pain may feel like a pulled muscle or a “Charlie horse.”

The most common place for blood clots is the lower leg. It’s unusual to have clots in both arms or legs at once. So, if you experience symptoms in only one leg or arm, they are especially likely to indicate a blood clot.

A clot in your arm or leg may not be dangerous there, but it poses a risk of breaking off and lodging in your lungs. This is known as a pulmonary embolism and can be fatal.

Signs of a blood clot in the arm and leg include:

  • Pain
  • Redness or bluish skin coloration
  • Swelling
  • Pale color
  • Coolness to the touch
  • Tenderness
  • Increased warmth in the part of the limb that’s swollen or hurting

What Are the Signs of a Blood Clot in the Brain?

A blood clot on or in the brain is diagnosed through an MRI or CT scan. A blood clot in the brain can block blood flow, causing a stroke.

But not every blood clot results in a stroke. And not all strokes are caused by blood clots. About 20 percent are caused by aneurisms, which are bulges or weakness in the wall of a blood vessel.

Signs of a blood clot on or in the brain include:

  • Trouble speaking
  • Impaired vision
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body
  • Trouble walking
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Seizures
  • Confusion

What Are the Signs of a Blood Clot in the Lungs (Pulmonary Embolism)?

Clots in the veins of the legs or arms can break off and travel to the lung. The resulting pulmonary embolism can be fatal.

Seniors are at increased risk for pulmonary embolism. This is partly because they are less mobile.

Symptoms of a blood clot in the lungs include:

  • Chest pain that may be short and stabbing and may get worse with each breath
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Unexplained coughing possibly with bloody mucus


What Are the Signs of a Blood Clot in the Abdomen?

Mesenteric ischemia is the term for a blood clot to an artery that supplies the intestine. It can stop blood circulation in the intestine and damage that area.

Researches in Denmark found that certain abdominal blood clots may be a sign of undiagnosed cancer.

Abdominal blood clots can cause the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain (especially if it gets worse after eating or over time)
  • Nausea
  • Blood in stool
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Accumulation of abdominal fluid

What Are the Signs of a Blood Clot in Coronary Artery?

A blood clot in or near the heart can cause a heart attack, according to the World Heart Federation. Women may have different symptoms of heart attacks than men. Women’s symptoms may be more diffuse.

Blood clots in the coronary artery cause the following symptoms:

  • Extreme chest pain that may radiate to the left part of your jaw, shoulder and arm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Sweating

When to Go to the Doctor for a Blood Clot

See your doctor right away whenever you think you may have a chance of a blood clot. The more quickly it is diagnosed, the better your chances of avoiding permanent harm or death.

A doctor may prescribe an anticoagulant, or blood thinner, to decrease blood clots and keep existing clots from growing. Brands of blood thinners include Pradaxa, Warfarin, Eliquis and Xarelto.

For people who cannot take blood thinners, doctors may recommend an IVC filter. The devices are also used in patients recovering from accidents and surgeries when there is a high risk of potentially fatal lung clots.

Elaine Silvestrini
Written By Elaine Silvestrini Writer

Elaine Silvestrini is an award-winning journalist with 30 years of experience covering state and federal court systems. She joined Drugwatch in 2017. Her coverage for Drugwatch has been cited in the CDC’s Public Health Law News and the USA Today Network. Some of her qualifications include:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention certificates in Health Literacy
  • Experience as an assistant investigator for the Federal Public Defender
  • Loyola Law School Journalist Law School Fellowship
Edited By
Emily Miller
Emily Miller Managing Editor

11 Cited Research Articles

  1. Wedro, B. (n.d.). Blood Clots. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/blood_clots/article.htm#blood_clot_definition_and_facts
  2. Healthline. (n.d.). What does It Feel Like When You Have a Blood Clot? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/what-does-a-blood-clot-feel-like
  3. NIH Medline Plus. (2011, Spring). Deep Vein Thrombosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Latest NIH Research. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/spring11/articles/spring11pg20-21.html
  4. Healthline. (n.d.). Everything You Should Know About Blood Clots in the Stomach. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/blood-clot-in-stomach
  5. National Blood Clot Alliance. (n.d.). Signs and Symptoms of Blood Clots. Retrieved from https://www.stoptheclot.org/about-clots/blood-clot-info/
  6. Healthline. (n.d.) How to Tell If You Have a Blood Clot. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-tell-if-you-have-a-blood-clot
  7. Ianzito, C. (2017, July 18). Blood Clots: Are You at Risk? Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2017/blood-clots-brain-warning-signs-symptoms-fd.html
  8. World Heart Federation. (2017, May 29). Stroke and blood clots. Retrieved from https://www.world-heart-federation.org/resources/stroke-blood-clots/
  9. Sogaard, K.K., et al. (2015, August 20). Splanchnic venous thrombosis is a marker of cancer and a prognostic factor for cancer survival. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26089394
  10. Berman, A.R. (2001, February 17). Pulmonary embolism in the elderly. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11270125\
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, October 31). Understanding Blood Clots. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/understanding-blood-clots-infographic.html
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