When clots develop deep inside your body, they can end up being deadly if you don’t get treatment right away,” says Luis Navarro, M.D., the founder of New York’s Vein Treatment Center. This type of clot is called a deep vein thrombosis, or DVT for short.
Things get even worse if one of these DVT get inside your lungs. If one does, it becomes a pulmonary embolism, which is a clot that stops your body from getting the right amount of oxygen. This type of clot can damage your organs and can even be fatal.
So it’s important to know the symptoms of a blood clot because they can sometimes be easily overlooked and getting fast treatment is important.
Here are the 8 warning signs of a blood clot you must know about to prevent a deadly embolism or stroke:
1 – Swelling
A swollen arm or leg is among the most common signs of a blood clot. “Blood clots can stop the flow of blood in the legs, and blood will then pool up leading to swelling,” says Dr. Navarro.
It’s normal to overlook swelling during periods of long sitting. But be weary if your swollen limb comes on very quickly, especially if it is accompanied with pain.
2 – Pain
Sometimes pain alone can be a symptom of DVT. “Pain from a clot can easily be overlooked as a strain or muscle cramp, which is why DVT is often undiagnosed and is especially dangerous,” says Dr. Navarro.
DVT pain will strike when you are walking or when you flex your foot. If you have a pain that won’t go away especially if your skin is warm or discolored—get your doctor to look at it.
3 – Redness
While a bruise is a type of blood clot, it’s not something to be concerned about. You can not see a DVT directly, but you may see some discoloration that resembles a bruise, but more likely you will see red around the area and the area will feel warm when you touch it.
4 – Chest pain
You may think this is a heart attack, but it could instead be a pulmonary embolism. “Both a heart attack and a PE have common symptoms,” warns Dr. Navarro. However, the difference is that PE pain will be stabbing and sharp, and gets worse as you breathe in deep.
While heart attack pain usually comes from the upper areas of your body like your jaw, neck or shoulders. The biggest hint is your breathing—PE pain gets more painful as your breathe. If this is the case, you need help right away, so dial 911.
5 – Can’t breathe
A clot in your lung hinders your oxygen flow, and can cause you to feel winded. “You often won’t have the stamina to make it up a flight of stairs,” says George P. Teitelbaum, M.D., director of the Stroke & Aneurysm Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. Get help promptly, especially if this occurs suddenly.
6 – Random cough
Can’t stop coughing? If you’re having fast heart rate, chest pain, shortness of breath, it might be a PE. “The cough will be dry, but people can hack up blood and mucus,” says Dr. Navarro. If you are in doubt, call your doc or go to the ER.
7 – Fast heart
If your oxygen supply is low, your heart will beat faster to try to make up for the lack of oxygen. Feeling a heart flutter and having problems with deep breathing could be your warning sign that you have a PE, Dr. Teitelbaum says.
8 – Fainting
“The lightheadedness is because of the chemicals from your lungs, changes in blood oxygenation, and your heart rate and blood pressure,” Dr. Nelson says. “Your brain is sensitive to oxygen changes and changes in blood flow.”
What should you do if you think you have a blood clot?
“It depends,” Dr. Teitelbaum says. If you’re experiencing shortness of breath and a lack of energy, call 911. “If you have leg swelling or tenderness and you’re not sure what is causing it, call your doctor about the next steps.