What are blood clots? A blood clot is a mass of blood that changes from liquid to a gel-like or semi-solid state. Clotting is a necessary process that can prevent you from losing too much blood in certain cases, such as when you are injured or cut. When blood clots form inside a vein, they will not always dissolve on their own. This can be a very dangerous and even deadly situation.

The deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a clot that occurs in one of the main veins deep within the body. It is more common for this to happen in one of the legs, but it can also occur in the arms, pelvis, lungs, or even the brain. Immobile blood clots will generally not hurt, but there is a possibility that they could move and become dangerous. If a blood clot breaks loose and travels through your veins to your heart and lungs, it can get stuck and prevent blood flow. When it travels to the lungs, it is called a pulmonary embolism (PE), which is a medical emergency.
What is the difference between venous thromboembolic disease (VTE) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
The American Hematology Society estimates that DVT affects 900,000 people in the US alone each year and kills up to 100,000 of them. There is no way to know if you have a blood clot without medical guidance. By knowing the most common symptoms and risk factors, you can give yourself the best chance of knowing when to seek an expert option.

Blood clots and unusual signs you should know

It is possible to have a blood clot without any apparent symptoms . Some of the signs of blood clots are the same as the signs of other diseases. You should call your doctor immediately if you think you may have a blood clot. A healthcare professional will be able to look at your circumstances and let you know the steps to take from there.

Blood clots in the leg

The most common place for blood clots to occur is in the legs, says Akram Alashari, MD, a trauma surgeon and critical care physician at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

A blood clot in your leg can present several symptoms , including:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Sensitivity
  • Warmth sensation
  • Calf pain when you stretch your toes up
  • Pale or bluish coloration

Your symptoms will depend on the size of the clot. So you may not have any symptoms or you may just have swelling in the hamstring (back of the knee) without much pain. If the clot is large, the entire leg could be swollen with extensive pain.

It is not common to have blood clots in both legs at the same time. Your chances of having a blood clot increase if your symptoms are isolated to one leg.

Blood clot in the heart

The heart is a less common place for a blood clot, but it can still occur. A blood clot in the heart could cause a sore chest or feel heavy. Dizziness and shortness of breath are other possible symptoms.

Blood clots in the abdomen

Severe abdominal pain, along with vomiting and diarrhea, could be symptoms of a blood clot somewhere in your abdomen. These can also be symptoms of a stomach virus or food poisoning.

Blood clot in the brain

A blood clot in the brain could cause a sudden and severe headache, along with some other symptoms, such as sudden trouble speaking or seeing.

Blood clot in the lungs

A blood clot that travels to the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). Possible symptoms that could be a sign of PE are:

  • Sudden shortness of breath that cannot be explained by exercise
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations or fast heart rate
  • Respiratory problems
  • Coughing up blood

Which are the risk factors?

Certain risk factors increase your chances of getting a blood clot . A recent hospital stay, especially one that is very long or related to major surgery, increases the risk of a blood clot.

Common risk factors that can put you at moderate risk for a blood clot include:

  • Age, especially if you are over 65
  • Long trips, such as any trip that causes sitting for more than four hours at a time
  • Bed rest or being sedentary for long periods of time
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Family history of blood clots
  • To smoke
  • Certain birth control pills

When to call a doctor

Diagnosing a blood clot by symptoms alone is very difficult. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50 percent of people with DVT have no symptoms. For this reason, it is best to call your doctor if you are concerned for any reason that you may have one.

Symptoms that come out of nowhere are especially concerning. Call a doctor or emergency number immediately, if you experience any of the following:

  1. Sudden shortness of breath
  2. Chest pressure
  3. Difficulty breathing, seeing, or speaking

A doctor or other healthcare professional will be able to tell if there is cause for concern and can send you for further tests to determine the exact cause. In many cases, the first step could be a non-invasive ultrasound. This test can show a picture of the veins, which can help the doctor make a diagnosis.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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