A blood clot inside a blood vessel feels different depending on where in the body it's located. While clotting is needed to stop blood loss from a damaged blood vessel, clots can develop where not needed and prevent normal blood flow through veins and arteries.
Blocked blood flow can result in pain, numbness/tingling, swelling, and skin warmth. Blood clots in the lungs, heart, or brain cause serious effects and can lead to death.
This article will discuss how different types of blood clots feel and when to seek medical attention.
Blood Clot in Vein
When Can You Feel a Blood Clot?
You probably won't feel a blood clot until it affects how blood flows through the circulatory system. When the clot becomes big enough, it will start to occlude (block) the blood vessel, obstructing blood flow through the veins or arteries.
Reduced blood flow results in decreased oxygen to tissues and organs. This causes the symptoms you feel with a blood clot. Depending on the type and location, blood clots can develop slowly over weeks or can happen quickly in a matter of days, hours, or even minutes.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Clots in blood vessels can result in these two types of conditions that you might be able to feel:
- Thrombosis: A thrombus is a blood clot that is immobile and hasn't moved throughout the body. Having a thrombus in a blood vessel is called thrombosis. This type of clot often starts in the legs or, less commonly, in the arms. It can take days to weeks to feel this type of blood clot.
- Embolism: An embolus is a clot (or piece of clot broken free from a thrombus) that travels through the circulatory system to another part of the body. An embolus can quickly travel to your lungs, heart, or brain, where it can lodge and create an embolism. This can cause acute symptoms within hours. If not diagnosed and treated quickly, an embolism can be deadly.
Causes of Blood Clots
Some common causes or risk factors of blood clots include:
- Atherosclerosis (buildup of plaques on the walls of arteries)
- Having obesity
- Having cancer
Describing How Blood Clots Feel
Blood clots can be mild, causing a small amount of inflammation and pain, or they can cause severe symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, and an altered mental state.
In some cases, you may be able to palpate (feel with your fingers) a blood clot if it's superficial; however, most of the time, you will only feel the symptoms the blood clot is causing.
Arms and Legs
Blood clots can originate in the arteries or veins and can be superficial or deep. Blood clots feel different depending on where they originate and how deep they are. Here are some types of blood clots commonly found in the extremities:
- Superficial vein thrombosis (SVT): Also called superficial thrombophlebitis, people with an SVT may experience pain and redness over the affected vein. The vein can also feel hard, like a cord. Symptoms usually resolve after a couple of weeks.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): DVTs occur deep in a vein, usually the lower leg, thigh, hip, pelvis, and sometimes in the arm. People with a DVT can experience swelling or tightness of the extremity. Other common symptoms include numbness, tingling, heaviness, redness, and warmth of the affected area. The smaller, more superficial veins around the DVT can also become more prominent or swollen.
- Arterial thrombosis: Whereas venous clots slow or prevent blood from returning to the lungs and heart, arterial clots can prevent oxygenated blood from reaching tissues and organs. The extremity can become pale, blue, and cold. This could result in amputation.
The most common type of blood clot in the lungs is called pulmonary embolism (PE). The main cause of a PE is usually due to a leg DVT. An embolus travels to the vessels that dump blood into the right side of the heart.
The clot then travels to the pulmonary artery (lung artery) and obstructs the blood flow to the lungs. Some people may have multiple emboli in the lungs at one time. This series of events results in the following symptoms you may feel with PE:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased oxygen level
- Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
- Decreased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Syncope (fainting)
A PE is a medical emergency. If you have a DVT and begin to experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or hemoptysis, call 911 immediately.
DVT vs. Pulmonary Embolism
Deep vein thrombosis is a nonmobile blood clot usually found in the extremities. When part of a DVT breaks free and travels to the lungs it's called a pulmonary embolism (PE). A PE is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical care.
Coronary artery thrombosis (a blood clot in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle) can lead to a heart attack. It is usually caused by atherosclerosis. Clots can also form within the chambers of the heart, usually due to atrial fibrillation or cardiomyopathy (severe weakness of the heart muscle).
You may feel the following symptoms if you have a blood clot in your heart:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Jaw pain
- Left arm pain
A blood clot in the brain can occur for several reasons, including a clot that forms within or embolizes to the blood vessels of the brain or due to head trauma. A brain clot can lead to stroke and even death. Symptoms that may be felt by someone with a blood clot in the brain include:
- Severe headache
- Blurry vision
- Problems speaking
- Change in personality
- Paralysis to one side or both sides of the body
Can You Feel Blood Clots When They Move?
You may be able to palpate a superficial thrombosis that is close to the skin. You cannot, however, feel a blood clot move through the circulatory system. What you will experience is worsening symptoms of the clot over time.
For example, a sore leg may turn into the inability to bear weight due to severe pain, or mild shortness of breath becomes so bad you're unable to walk a few feet without feeling winded.
What to Do If You Feel a Blood Clot
Any sign of a blood clot needs to be reported to your healthcare provider. Even a superficial thrombosis can turn into a DVT or may indicate you have risk factors for a DVT. Diagnosing a blood clot sooner than later can greatly reduce damage to nearby tissue and organs and can possibly save your life.
Call 911 immediately if you have a known or suspected DVT with the following symptoms:
- Chest pain or tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- New cough with or without blood
- Pain in your jaw, shoulder, or arm
- A fast heart rate
- Change in mental status
How Blood Clots Are Diagnosed
A blood clot feels different depending on the type of clot and its location in the body. Blood clots can cause occlusion of a vein or artery, reducing the oxygenation of tissue and organs. The affected area can feel swollen, tight, warm, and painful.
A blood clot in the lungs, heart, or brain can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, arm or jaw pain, and seizures. If you have a known or suspected DVT, call 911 immediately if you feel symptoms of a lung, heart, or brain blood clot.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
MedlinePlus. Blood clots.
MedlinePlus. Superficial thrombophlebitis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is venous thromboembolism?
NHS. Arterial thrombosis.
American Thoracic Society. Pulmonary embolism.
American Heart Association. Symptoms and diagnosis of excessive blood clotting.
National Institute of Health. Blood clots explained.
Blood Clot Alliance. Blood clot info: risks, symptoms, and prevention.
By Serenity Mirabito RN, OCN
Serenity Mirabito, MSN, RN, OCN, advocates for well-being, even in the midst of illness. She believes in arming her readers with the most current and trustworthy information leading to fully informed decision making.
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