Blood clots can be not only life threatening, but life altering. If they don’t dissolve on their own, they can be a silent killer if they travel to the brain, heart, or lungs.

That’s a potential stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism. Blood clots can form in the arteries or veins, which are both responsible for carrying blood throughout our systems. Veins transport blood to the heart, while arteries carry it away from the heart to other parts of the body.

DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, occurs when a blood clot forms within a vein, typically within the leg. In some cases, the clot will form in an arm or another part of the body. DVT can cause pulmonary embolisms, which is when the clot breaks up and travels to the lungs.

An arterial clot (arterial thrombosis) can develop in an artery due to a buildup of plaque in the artery walls, and block or restrict blood flow. If one breaks loose or travels, it can cause a heart attack, stroke, or organ damage.

Both types of clots restrict normal blood flow, can occur anywhere in the body, and can result in the symptoms below. See a doctor right away if you suspect you have a clot.

  1. Swelling

    Swelling in the arm or leg is a symptom of DVT. Usually occurs on one side of the body.

  2. Discoloration

    If you notice your skin is red or blue in one area of your arm or leg, it could be a blood clot caused by DVT.

    By contrast, pale skin could be a symptom of an arterial embolism, which is the result of an arterial clot that travels to an arm or leg.

  3. Chest Pain With or Without Cough

    Image of man holding chest.Irfansevket2905 via Wikimedia Commons

    Sometimes people have no symptoms of DVT until the clot travels to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. This results in sharp, stabbing-like chest pains which gets worse with a cough. Watch out for a cough that is accompanied by chest pain, difficulty breathing, or has a bloody discharge. Seek medical attention immediately.

    Chest pain or a heaviness is a common sign of an arterial clot. A heart attack can occur as a result of arterial thrombosis.

  4. Shortness of Breath

    This is an extremely common symptom. When a blood clot breaks off and moves to the lungs, you will often experience shortness of breath. It is sometimes accompanied by a cough.

    A clot that travels to the heart (caused by an arterial clot) or is in the heart, can cause difficulty breathing as well.

  5. Dizziness or Fainting

    This could be a sign that the blot has broken free, causing you to have low blood pressure, and feel dizzy or faint.

  6. Extreme Fatigue

    Weakness and fatigue could be a sign of DVT/pulmonary embolism. A friend of mine was unusually tired and winded for several weeks when climbing the stairs to her apartment. She later found out there were eight clots in her lungs. If your fatigue is accompanied by any of these other symptoms, see a doctor!

  7. Pain

    Pain in the leg

    Depending on where the blood clot is located, you may have pain in your calf (leg), arm, abdomen, or head. Muscle cramps or spasms may also be present. Pay attention to whether the pain is isolated to one limb only, as that can indicate a clot.

  8. Skin Temperature Changes

    With DVT, the limb is typically warm to the touch or has a warm sensation. It’s normally isolated to the section of skin where the clot is located.

    With the other type of clot (arterial), the lack of oxygen flowing through the body may cause you to experience coolness in your arm or leg. Your fingers or toes might also feel cold.

  9. Fever

    When a blood clot breaks and enters the bloodstream, it can cause your body temperature to spike. Look out for a fever with a sudden onset.

The following factors increase your risk for getting a blood clot:

  • Obesity
  • Being sedentary/physically inactive
  • Injury at the site like a concussion
  • Surgery
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Family history
  • Extended travel
  • Older age
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol

Sometimes people with clots will exhibit no symptoms, but if you notice one or more of these are out of the ordinary for you, visit a medical professional right away. Remember, clots can form anywhere including: leg, arm, abdomen, heart, or pelvis.

Are you receiving treatment for DVT or history of blood clot? Has someone close to you suffered due to a blood clot?