close up illustration of red blood cell. close up
Sean Cate
Sean Cate
June 7, 2024 ·  4 min read

What Does a Blood Clot Feel Like? Experts Share Common Signs and Symptoms

Almost a million Americans a year are affected by blood clots, so it’s worth knowing the signs and symptoms. Blood clots, or thrombosis, can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. Here’s a detailed look at what they feels like, how to identify the symptoms, and when to seek medical help.

1. What is A Blood Clot

Blood Clot
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A blood clot is a mass or clump of blood that forms in arteries and veins. While clots can be helpful in controlling bleeding after an injury, they can cause serious health issues if they form without an injury to help. “When blood clots form in the deeper system, they can be painful and very dangerous,” says Dr. Luis Navarro, founder of the Vein Treatment Center in New York City.1 These clots, called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), can obstruct blood flow and lead to serious complications.

Read More: Your Blood Type Indicates Your Risk of Early Stroke, Scientists Find

2. Swelling in One Limb

Women suffering with leg pain, ankle pain, inflammation and red swelling.
Credit: Shutterstock

A common sign of DVT is swelling in an leg or arm. “Blood clots can block the healthy flow of blood in the legs, and blood can pool behind the clot causing swelling,” explains Dr. Navarro. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of a blood clot in the leg include swelling, redness, and tenderness.2 If you notice sudden swelling, especially with pain, it’s important to consult a doctor.

3. Pain in the Leg or Arm

Arm pain
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DVT pain usually comes with swelling or redness, but it can also happen on its own. This pain is often mistaken for a muscle cramp or strain. “Pain from a blood clot can easily be mistaken for a muscle cramp or strain, which is why the issue often goes undiagnosed and is specifically dangerous,” Dr. Navarro says. DVT pain typically worsens when walking or flexing the foot. This pain might remind you of a nasty muscle cramp or a charley horse.

4. Redness and Warmth

The man's calf muscle cramped, massage of male leg at home, painful area highlighted in red
Credit: Shutterstock

A DVT can cause redness and make the affected limb feel warm to the touch. While bruises are visible types of blood clots, DVTs are not. You might see some discoloration, but redness is more common. This symptom, paired with warmth in the affected area, is a signal that you need medical attention. Your leg may also feel warm as the clot worsens, and you may notice a slight reddish or bluish hue to your skin. While looking like Hellboy or Mystique is cool at Comic Con, it isn’t something your Boyd should be doing naturally. 

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5. Chest Pain and Shortness of Breath

Woman suffering an anxiety attack alone in the night on a couch at home
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Chest pain might be an indicator for a pulmonary embolism (PE), a serious condition where a blood clot travels to the lungs. “Both a PE and a heart attack share similar symptoms,” says Dr. Navarro. PE pain is usually sharp and worsens with deep breaths. Accompanying symptoms like sudden shortness of breath and a rapid heart rate require immediate medical intervention.3A blood clot in the chest area can feel like a heart attack, or can feel like a sharp and stabbing pain that gets worse with deep breaths,” says Dr. Navarro.

6. Unexplained Cough

Coughing into arm
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A persistent, unexplained cough, especially if accompanied by shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, or chest pain, could be a sign of PE. “The cough will be dry, but sometimes people can cough up mucus and/or blood,” notes Dr. Navarro. At that point, if you aren’t already headed to the emergency room, you should be. According to Dr. Thomas Maldonado, a vascular surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, chest pain that feels worse with each breath and a sudden rapid heart rate are common indicators of a PE.

7. Racing Heart and Feeling Faint

Credit: Pexels

When a blood clot hits your lungs, your heart rate may increase to compensate for the reduced oxygen levels. “Feeling a flutter in your chest and having trouble with deep breaths could be your body sending out an SOS that you’ve got a PE lurking in your lungs,” says Dr. George P. Teitelbaum. Additionally, lightheadedness or fainting may occur due to changes in blood flow and oxygenation. Dr. Lewis Nelson from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School adds, “The lightheadedness is due in part to the chemical released from the lungs, changes in oxygenation of the blood, and in the blood pressure and heart rate”.


Credit: Pexels

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of blood clots is vital for timely treatment. If you experience any of these symptoms, especially in combination, seek medical attention immediately. Blood clots are serious and can lead to fatal conditions if left untreated.

Read More: These Are The Most Up-to-date Blood Pressure Guidelines. Are They Right for Everyone?


  1. What Does a Blood Clot Feel Like? 8 Signs You Should Never Ignore.” Prevention. RACHEL REIFF ELLIS AND KORIN MILLER. March 12, 2024.
  2. What Does a Blood Clot Look and Feel Like? With Pictures.” Healthline. Juliann Schaeffer. June 22, 2022