While blood clots can help seal injuries and stop excessive bleeding, the clotting can be harmful if it takes place in the deep veins of the body. Often occurring in the legs, this condition is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
“When blood clots form in this deeper system, they can be painful and very dangerous,” said Dr. Luis Navarro, founder of the Vein Treatment Center in New York City. The most serious complication can occur if the clot lodges itself in the lungs and ends up blocking blood flow.
“It’s important to recognize symptoms because they can often be minimal or overlooked,” he added. Here are five possible signs that you might have a blood clot.
1. Swelling in one leg
In most cases, DVT will result in swelling in the affected leg. It is noticeable below the knee and rarely affects both legs. “That’s because when a clot forms in your vein, blood can’t get back to your heart, and the pressure causes fluid to spread to the tissue in your leg,” explained Dr. Patricia Vassallo, an assistant professor of cardiology at Northwestern University.
2. Discoloration of skin
When blood flow is blocked in the veins, the skin over that area can begin to appear discolored, like a bruise. It is possible to see shades of blue, purple, or even red. If the discolored skin also feels itchy or warm to touch, it is highly recommended that you have it examined by a professional.
3. Shortness of breath
Due to the blood flow being affected, oxygen levels may start falling. As a result, you can feel an increase in your heart rate, develop a bad cough and have trouble breathing.
This can be a sign that the clot has moved to the lungs, especially when accompanied by dizziness. Call 911 and seek medical attention as soon as possible in such cases.
4. Pain in one leg or arm
This kind of pain can occur by itself or can be accompanied by signs of discoloration and swelling. “Unfortunately, pain from a blood clot can easily be mistaken for a muscle cramp or strain, which is why the issue often goes undiagnosed and is specifically dangerous,” Dr. Navarro said.
5. Sharp pain in the chest
When the clot travels to your lungs, it can cause pulmonary embolism and produce symptoms similar to that of a heart attack.
According to Dr. Thomas Maldonado from NYU Langone Medical Center, a dull ache which feels centered on the chest but radiates to surrounding parts of the body is most likely a heart attack. On the other hand, he said, pulmonary embolism may feel like a sharp pain which seems to get worse with each breath you take.