How To Tell If It's A Blood Clot: Signs, Symptoms And More

December 11, 2022

When blood clots form inside the veins, they do not always dissolve on their own. Immobile blood clots are usually harmless, but they can become dangerous if they break free. A blood clot can travel to the heart or lungs, which is life-threatening. According to the American Society of Hematology, nearly 900,000 Americans develop deep vein thrombosis each year. It is impossible for one to know if he or she has a blood clot without proper medical guidance, but those who know what symptoms to look out for can seek medical attention quickly.

Arms and Legs

Most blood clots occur in the lower legs and typically form when an individual is inactive for a lengthy period of time. For example, a blood clot may develop in a patient's leg after spending hours cramped on a plane. The symptoms experienced vary based on the size of the clot; bigger clots are usually more painful than smaller-sized ones. Those who have a blood clot in their arm or leg are likely to experience swelling and tenderness. If the clot is small, minor calf swelling can also occur, whereas bigger blood clots can cause the whole leg or arm to swell. Those who have a clot may notice a warm sensation or the affected area may turn bluish in color.


Those who develop a blood clot in their abdomen may experience swelling and severe pain, as well as nausea and vomiting. In addition, the patient may also experience diarrhea and bloody stools. While these are also symptoms of a stomach virus or food poisoning, it is always important to have these issues checked by a medical professional as a precaution. A blood clot can prevent blood from flowing to the heart, which can lead to a life-threatening situation. Not only that, but researchers are starting to discover that abdominal blood clots may also be a sign of cancer. For example, those who have pancreatic or liver cancer commonly experience abdominal blood clotting.


When a blood clot travels to the lungs, doctors refer to it as a pulmonary embolism. Most clots that reach the lungs are small and non-life threatening. With that said, smaller clots can still cause substantial damage to the lungs. If the clot is large, it can stifle proper blood flow and become deadly, so quick treatment is essential. One of the most common symptoms to look for is a sudden shortness of breath; if an individual is short of breath with lack of physical movement, he or she may be suffering from a pulmonary embolism. This condition can cause the patient to experience chest pain, breathing problems and heart palpitations. In some cases, a pulmonary embolism causes one to cough up blood as well.


The quicker a patient realizes they have a blood clot in their brain, the quicker they can seek treatment. Some of these symptoms may seem mundane, but taking them lightly is creating a serious risk. Reoccurring headaches that are felt on the side of the head and happen for no apparent reason are an early warning sign of a blood clot. Since these clots interrupt blood flow, speech issues such as slurred and stuttered speech are another common symptom. It is also common for victims to experience blurred or double vision. Those who have severe blood clotting issues may experience reoccurring seizures. In other cases, a blood clot in the brain can even lead to a loss of both gross and fine motor skills.


Blood clots in the heart are not the most common, but they still happen. A blood clot in the heart causes symptoms that are similar to that of a heart attack. Many experience intense pain, tightness, and pressure in their chest, while others experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and fainting. A patient may also experience discomfort in his or her neck, jaw and arms. Not all blood clots in the heart are accompanied by noticeable symptoms; some patients may remain symptom-free until the blood clot breaks. If the clot is big enough, a person may have a heart attack. Those who experience symptoms resembling a heart attack should seek immediate medical assistance.

Risk Factors

There are risk factors that increase an individuals chance of developing a blood clot. Remaining sedentary for an extended period is one of the leading factors. Hospital patients who undergo a lengthy surgery are at an increased risk of developing a blood clot. As a rule, one should avoid sitting for more than four hours at a time to avoid creating potential clotting issues. Also, those who are over the age of sixty-five have an increased risk of developing blood clots. Research has proven that family history plays a role in the formation of blood clots. Certain birth control pills can also lead to clotting issues. Some other common risk factors include obesity, pregnancy, smoking, and cancer.

When to Call a Doctor

Since not all patients who have a blood clot show symptoms, diagnosing them can be quite difficult. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of all patients with a deep vein thrombosis show no symptoms. Many patients avoid seeking medical treatment until the problem is severe and life-altering. Those who suspect that they have a blood clot should contact their doctor immediately, especially if their symptoms come out of nowhere. Sudden shortness of breath, chest pain and difficulty breathing are all symptoms that should be taken seriously. A healthcare professional will conduct testing such as a noninvasive ultrasoundto see if there is cause for concern.

How Doctors Treat Blood Clots

Doctors have several different methods to treat a blood clot; if a patient has an arterial clot, a doctor may have the patient undergo catheter-directed thrombolysis. This technique delivers drugs to the problem site to break down the clot. In the event of an emergency, the patient may need to undergo surgery to remove the clot before it blocks blood flow to the vital organs. In order to treat a venous clot, a doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medication to enable the blood to pass around the site of the clot more easily.

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