What Does a Blood Clot Feel Like?

In the United States alone, around 60,000 people develop blood clots per year. Blood clots occur in different parts of the body under varying conditions. In case of a cut or injury, blood clots are beneficial as they will prevent excessive bleeding. Nonetheless, a variety of conditions can lead to clots developing in critical locations like the brain and lungs. For such cases, medical attention is needed. The key to survival is early detection. So what does a blood clot feel like? Read on to find out.

What Does a Blood Clot Feel Like?

You may feel warmth in your legs (mostly on one side), swelling, constant leg pain, coughing blood, chest pain when you take deep breaths or shortness of breath when you have a blood clot in the lung or legs and should be taken seriously. Below is what a blood clot feels like in various parts of the body:

1. Blood Clot in the Leg (DVT)

The lower leg is one of the most common places to get a blood clot. Symptoms of a blood clot in your leg include:

  • Bluish or pale discoloration
  • Pain in your calf upon stretching toes upwards
  • Warm sensation
  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Swelling

The symptoms will be determined by the size of the clot. For this reason, you might have a painless (or minimal pain) minor swelling on your calf or no symptoms at all. If the clot is huge, the whole leg might swell and you will experience serious pain. Normally, clots do not occur in both legs at the same time. You are likely to have a clot if the symptoms are on one leg only. 

2. Blood Clot in the Lungs (PE)

When a clot travels to your lungs, it is referred to as pulmonary embolism. Symptoms of PE include:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Chest pains
  • Sudden shortness of breath that is unrelated to exercise

3. Blood Clot in Other Parts

Though it is rare, a blood clot can occur in the heart leading to pain in the chest or heaviness. You might also experience shortness of breath and light-headedness.

If a clot occurs in the abdomen, you might experience serious abdominal pains accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting. When it occurs in the brain, a blood clot could lead to a sudden headache as well as difficulty seeing and speaking.

What does a blood clot feel like? Watch the following video to find more. 

When to Seek Emergent Medical Care

You should seek emergency care when you experience:

  • Sudden blurred, decreased or double vision
  • Sudden trouble in understanding speech or speaking
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pain spreading to your jaw, back, arm or shoulder
  • Fullness, pressure or squeezing pain in the middle of your chest for more than a few minutes
  • Shortness of breath

If you see the following on your leg or arm, seek medical attention:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Redness
  • Swelling

Are You at Risk of Blood Clots?

Blood clots can occur in anyone’s body, but you are more at risk if you are not able to move around much when you are sick. You might have heard of clots linked to contraceptive pills or long-haul plane trips. However, most clots will occur after a long stay in hospital. The risk is higher if you:

  • Are above 60 years of age
  • Are overweight
  • Had a history of blood clots
  • Are going through hormone replacement therapy
  • Have recently delivered or are pregnant
  • Are dehydrated
  • Are going through cancer treatment or you’re a cancer patient
  • Have a condition that makes your blood clot easily, such as antiphospholipid syndrome

People’s Experiences on the Feelings of Blood Clots

"In the past few months, I have been sweating a lot to a point where my clothes become soaked in sweat. Currently, my legs are in serious pain and one leg is swollen. I was told by the doctor that I have a blood clot and I should put my feet up and take water pills. The swelling is over, but the pain is still there and walking has become a painful experience."

"I have health issues that limit my activities and this might have been the cause of my blood clot. I did a backflip into a post. When the deck failed, it made me think my feet swelling and legs aching were the result of another back injury. Six weeks later, I suffered serious chest pain. I called out my neighbor who dialed 911. I underwent 4 surgeries and was released. I recovered quite well and fast."

"I woke up with really bad chest pain and this is after a week of feeling fatigued more than usual. The next day, I felt something was not okay, but I went to bed anyway. At 2:30 am, I woke my partner and told him I was getting a heart attack. He asked if we should go to the ER, but I declined and went back to sleep. When I woke up in the morning, my left arm and 2 fingers were blue. I went to my doctor who sent me to the ER where I got my blood work and CAT scan done. I was then flown to a different hospital. I had a large blood clot in my heart, and my left hand was not receiving blood. I underwent open heart surgery and stayed in the ICU for a week. The doctor mentioned that I might lose my arm. I left the hospital better, but I still have to see my heart doctor and hope no more surgeries."

"I was in fatigue for several weeks, but I assumed it was due to my sleep apnea. I had post-knee replacement and worked hard during recovery. Later on, my chest felt tight and it was difficult to breathe. I went to the ER where a CT scan, chest x-ray and blood work were done. It was discovered that I have pulmonary embolism in each of my lungs."

How to Treat Blood Clots

Apart from the question “what does a blood clot feel like”, you might also want to know how blood clots are treated. The location of the blood clot and your general health will determine the mode of treatment for blood clots. Here are some current treatments:

  • Anticoagulants, drugs that prevent formation of clots
  • Thrombolytics, drugs that dissolve blood clots
  • Catheter-directed thrombolysis, a procedure that involves surgical insertion of a long tube, catheter, directed to the clot. Blood clot dissolving drugs are delivered to this point.
  • Thrombectomy, a procedure in which blood clots are surgically removed.

If you have a venous clot, you will be referred to a hematologist (blood specialist). People with arterial diseases and are likely to develop blood clots have several doctors dealing with their case. You can also sign up for a clinical trial if your doctor is in support of one.

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