You may have a blood clot without noticeable symptoms. However, if you do have symptoms, they may vary depending on where it’s located, such as in the arm, leg, lungs, heart, or brain.

A blood clot is a clump of blood that has changed from a liquid to a gel-like or semisolid state. Clotting is a necessary process that can help prevent excessive blood loss when you have a cut, for example.

Thrombosis is when a blood clot forms and reduces blood flow. There are two types:

  • Arterial thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in an artery.
  • Venous thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein.

When a clot forms inside one of your veins, it may dissolve on its own.

However, sometimes a clot doesn’t dissolve on its own, or part of it breaks off and travels elsewhere in your circulatory system. When this happens, the blood clot may get stuck elsewhere and restrict blood flow, known as embolism.

These situations can be very dangerous and even life threatening.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 2 people don’t experience any symptoms when they have a deep venous blood clot.

When symptoms do appear, it’s important to get immediate medical attention.

Keep reading to learn more about the types of blood clots, their symptoms, and how they affect different body parts.

Medical emergency

A blood clot may be a medical emergency and life threatening if left untreated.

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately if you or someone you’re with experiences symptoms of a serious blood clot, such as:

  • sudden shortness of breath
  • chest pressure
  • difficulty breathing, seeing, or speaking

Call a doctor or seek medical attention if you experience throbbing, swelling, and tenderness in one body part.

infographic describing symptoms and locations of blood clotsShare on Pinterest
Infographic by Maya Chastain

A common place for a blood clot to occur is in the deep veins of the leg, which is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

A blood clot in your leg or arm may have various symptoms, including:

A blood clot most commonly happens in one leg or arm, not both.

Your symptoms will depend on the size of the clot. That’s why you might not have any symptoms or only have minor calf swelling without a lot of pain. If the clot is large, your entire leg could become swollen with extensive pain.

Some risk factors for DVT may include:

  • recent surgery
  • pregnancy
  • injuries, such as bone fractures
  • not moving for a long time, such as being confined to a bed
  • having a health condition, such as obesity, heart disease, and inflammatory bowel disease

An arterial clot in your leg may cause other symptoms, including:

  • pale, cold feeling in the affected area
  • pain, numbness, or tingling
  • decreased or no pulse in your arm or leg
  • weakness or lack of movement

Arterial thrombosis is a blood clot that affects an artery, which could cut off critical blood flow to your heart and result in a heart attack.

When clots develop in the arteries feeding the heart, it’s called coronary artery thrombosis.

These clots usually occur when fatty plaque in the heart arteries breaks off, leading to blood clot formation. This blocks blood flow and essential oxygen and nutrients from reaching heart tissue, leading to heart attack.

Symptoms of coronary thrombosis may include:

Blood clots that develop in the abdomen may target a variety of organs, so symptoms vary from person to person.

Blood clots in the abdomen can be arterial or venous and may cause symptoms like:

While these symptoms can signal a blood clot, they can also develop with other conditions.

As such, a doctor will perform imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis.

A blood clot in the brain is responsible for 85% of strokes.

These clots can travel to the brain from elsewhere in the body or form directly in the blood vessels in the brain. When this happens, blood can’t bring oxygen to your brain, resulting in hypoxia. Brain tissue can’t survive without a constant supply of oxygen, and hypoxia can cause severe symptoms and even death.

A blood clot in your brain will cause all the symptoms of a stroke, like:

  • numbness or weakness in the arm, face, and leg, especially on one side of the body
  • trouble speaking or understanding others
  • slurred speech
  • confusion, disorientation, or lack of responsiveness
  • sudden behavioral changes, especially increased agitation
  • vision problems, like trouble seeing in one or both eyes with vision blackened or blurred, or double vision
  • trouble walking
  • loss of balance or coordination
  • dizziness
  • severe, sudden headache with an unknown cause
  • seizures
  • nausea or vomiting

If these symptoms appear and disappear suddenly, you should still get immediate medical attention.

Stroke symptoms that come and go can be a sign of a transient ischemic attack, or ministroke. These are also usually caused by blood clots, but the clots resolve or don’t entirely block the flow of blood to your brain.

A blood clot that travels to your lungs is called a pulmonary embolism (PE).

A blood clot in the deep veins of the legs can break free and move to the arteries in your lungs, preventing blood flow. This is a medical emergency.

Symptoms that could be a sign of PE include:

It’s rare for children to get blood clots, but they’re more likely to occur in children who are receiving medical attention.

Reduced movement due to illness or injury is a big source of blood clots in hospitalized children, but many also face congenital or genetic disorders present at birth.

Some causes of blood clots in children may include:

  • reduced blood flow
  • damage to veins from intravenous catheters
  • inherited conditions like genetic thrombophilia
  • abnormal blood vessel structure or formation, like May-Thurner syndrome and Paget-Schroetter syndrome
  • certain medications

It’s important to see a healthcare professional if you think you may have a blood clot or symptoms like throbbing, cramping, or swelling in one body part.

A doctor will examine your symptoms and medical history. They may also perform several tests, such as a noninvasive ultrasound or MRI to get a better image of your veins or arteries.

This will help them provide a proper diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

What does a blood clot feel like?

A blood clot may feel differently depending on where it affects you. For example, a blood clot deep in the leg may cause throbbing, swelling, and cramping in the affected area. A blood clot in your abdomen may cause abdominal pain, nausea, and bloody stools.

How do I check myself for blood clots?

You may experience symptoms like tenderness, swelling, and warmth at the site of the blood clot. However, you can’t see a blot clot. Medical imagery is required to provide a diagnosis, so it’s best to see a healthcare professional immediately.

How long can you have a blood clot without knowing?

There’s no exact duration for how long you can have a blood clot without knowing. Blood clots don’t always cause obvious symptoms, and about 1 in 2 people with DVT don’t experience symptoms at all. Heart attacks can also happen without causing symptoms, known as a silent heart attack.

Can a blood clot go away on its own?

The body has a system in place to break down blood clots, but in most cases, medication is needed to treat blood clots to prevent serious complications.

Blood clots can happen in your veins or arteries.

Depending on where you experience a clot, symptoms may range from swelling, throbbing, and tenderness in the affected area to severe chest pain, shortness of breath, or abdominal pain.

If you think you have a blood clot, it’s important to get immediate medical attention. A doctor can provide a proper diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.