If you think about it, your blood has the most crucial job of all— to keep on pumping throughout each and every organ of your body, for as long as you’re breathing.
Without a healthy and adequate amount of blood in your body, you become vulnerable to numerous diseases, some of which could prove life-threatening.
At times, your blood performs the important function of clotting. When you injure or cut yourself, your blood assumes a gel-like texture to cut off its flow and prevent excess loss of blood.
However, not all blood clots are good. Many times, a blood clot may occur deep inside your veins, especially the veins in your legs, and has nothing to do with an injury or cut. This condition is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Many factors could lead to DVT in an individual. Most common among these include smoking, obesity, pregnancy, heart and lung disease, cancer (especially of the brain, bone, pancreas, ovaries and lymphomas), chemotherapy, hormone therapy (such as being on birth control pills), and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Immobility is one of the leading causes of DVT, and usually occurs after a person has had major surgery or an accident that renders him or her unable to move freely.
Genetics also play a huge role in determining whether a person is prone to developing DVT. However, in some cases, DVT can occur for no apparent reason.
DVT can be an extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition. The clots in your veins can break away, find their way to the lungs and lodge themselves in there, blocking the blood flow.
A blood clot in the lungs is referred to as a pulmonary embolism (PE) and is considered a serious medical emergency.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 60,000 and 100,000 Americans succumb to DVT/PE annually.
Although DVT is largely asymptomatic, it does produce symptoms in some people that are definitely worth knowing. Simple awareness of these symptoms could prevent a serious illness and even death.
You may think these symptoms are not distinguishable enough to know if one might be suffering from DVT or some other condition.
However, if you have any of the conditions that qualify as possible risk factors of DVT, and then find yourself experiencing the following symptoms, you might just seek the medical help you need, as quickly as possible.
Here are 10 signs and symptoms of an unnatural blood clot that you should know.
Swelling, especially in the leg(s) and often called leg edema, is one of the primary and classic symptoms of DVT.
You may notice a significance difference in the appearance and feel of one leg compared to the other. You may feel like there is fluid buildup in your leg as you stand up and begin to walk.
Although a swollen leg could mean many things, when combined with the risk factors of DVT along with its other symptoms, you have reason enough to suspect DVT and seek appropriate medical attention.
Leg edema was identified as one of the most common and significant symptoms of DVT in the leg, according to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology.
Hence, an unnatural swelling of the leg is not always a reaction to an intense workout session likely to resolve itself, but could be indicative of a blood clot.
2. Pain & Tenderness
Swelling may or may not accompany DVT-associated pain, but leg pain and tenderness are likely to occur when one experiences DVT-associated swelling.
Leg pain is one of the most prominent symptoms of DVT, according to a 2000 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
You may experience a sharp and/or burning leg pain and tenderness for a variety of reasons, and it may be located anywhere in the leg.
However, DVT-associated leg-pain and tenderness is highly likely to be restricted to the calfregion, as well as along the medial thigh area (middle of the thigh to the outer sides).
About 50 to 75 percent of patients with DVT who show symptoms are likely to experience pain. DVT patients are likely to experience the most consistent and extreme pain when they are walking, as it puts pressure on the blood clot.
Such people will notice that their pain subsides when they take a break from walking for a specific amount of time (which varies from person to person), likely to come back when they resume walking.
If you notice such a pattern of pain upon walking, reduction upon resting for a fixed time, and pain again, you should definitely seek medical help. You can also squeeze your calf to see if you experience a sharp pain upon squeezing.
A person with DVT will also experience pain if they lift their leg up in a straight position and pull their toes toward themselves with their hands. This is called the Homan’s Test for DVT.
Typically, such pain will not occur when sitting or lying down, unless the clot has reached an advanced stage.
3. Unusual Warmth
A person who has a DVT blood clot in their leg may feel an unusual warmth in the area where the clot has developed. This is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as swelling and pain, but can exist without either symptom as well. However, it is most likely to be warm and tender upon touching.
Each time you experience pain after walking, and you are stopping and/or sitting down to take a break, run your hand over the area from which you feel the pain is emanating.
If it is warm, you should consider it your body’s distress signal and seek immediate medical attention.
4. Skin Discoloration
If you have DVT, you may notice a certain part of your leg assuming an unusual color or, as is the most common case, becoming blue or red in color. This is likely due to a blood clot developing under the discolored area.
Since a blood clot is, essentially, a trauma to the vein, it causes inflammation of the vein, manifesting itself via a visible discoloration on the skin’s surface. This irritated part of the skin may or may not become flaky and excessively dry, causing an itching problem.
Should this happen, you are advised to NOT scratch the area incessantly, as it could further aggravate the skin as well as the underlying blood clot.
This discolored area may be swollen, painful, tender and warm. Thus, skin discoloration will occur with all, or the majority of, the symptoms described above.
A DVT patient may feel a particular weakness in their quadriceps (located in the middle of the thighs), and may often feel like their legs are unable to carry their body’s load.
This feeling of weakness can be accompanied by a feeling of dizziness and mental weakness. This feeling likely subsides after resting for a while and consuming some fluids.
This is not one of the primary and most common symptoms of DVT, but it does occur in many patients and thus is worth keeping an eye out for.
The above symptoms indicate a blood clot in the leg, which has not yet detached itself.
The following symptoms represent an advanced stage of DVT and the onset of pulmonary embolism (PE), a condition in which the blood clot in the leg detaches itself, travels to the lungs and blocks blood flow. PE is potentially fatal.
A low-grade fever is a symptom of DVT that has progressed to an advanced stage. In fact, a fever is a common symptom and may indicate serious outcomes, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis.
In the majority of the cases, it may indicate that the blood clot has travelled to your lungs and settled therein, thereby signaling a blockage and causing a PE.
7. Shortness of Breath
This is another alarming symptom of advanced DVT and also indicates pulmonary embolism. Shortness of breath is a clear-cut indication that the blood clot has successfully settled in the lungs, obstructing not only the blood flow through the lungs but also the airflow, resulting in obstructed breathing.
Dyspnea (shortness of breath) is reportedly the most common symptom of PE, with the majority of PE patients suffering it, according to a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Medicine.
The breathing may also be abnormally quick and rapid.
8. Chest Pain
When a person’s lungs are blocked due to the settling of a blood clot in the lungs, they suffer extreme strain when trying to breath, often resulting in a sharp chest pain.
A majority of patients with advanced DVT and PE are likely to report chest pain, according to a 2013 study published in Experimental and Clinical Cardiology.
Coughing is also an accompanying symptom of advanced DVT and PE-associated shortness of breath.
It is indicative of the obstruction caused by a blood clot that has travelled to the lungs, making breathing impossible and manifesting the irritation through incessant coughing.
Such coughing may or may not be accompanied by blood.
10. Extreme Sweating
A person with advanced DVT and possible PE will suffer, along with the above-mentioned symptoms, an extreme case of sweating. They are also likely to feel light-headed, as if they could pass out any minute.
Night sweats also are a common occurrence in patients of PE, and can help detect PE at an early stage, according to a 2015 study published in Case Reports in Pulmonology.
The blood clot in the leg can not only travel to the person’s lungs but also their heart and brain, resulting in a heart attack or a stroke.
Therefore, if you notice any of the above symptoms at any point of your life, it is best to get it properly diagnosed.