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DVT/Blood Clots Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

What Are the Symptoms of DVT

The symptoms of deep vein thrombosis are swelling and pain, unusual redness and a “Charley horse” like throbbing in the affected limb, usually the leg. A blood clot that has traveled to the lung and caused a pulmonary embolism may cause a feeling of breathlessness, chest pain, coughing up blood, and dizziness, accompanied by anxiety and rapid heartbeat.

Symptoms of pulmonary embolism may also be confused for those of a heart attack, pneumonia and other conditions that cause cough, chest pain and rapid heartbeat.

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors?

There are many different factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing DVT and PE.

Bone fractures, major surgery, and cardiac catheterization may increase the chance of deep vein blood clot formation. Birth control pills and pregnancy are also known to increase risk. Other significant contributors are obesity, cigarette smoking, cancer, chemotherapy and personal history of abnormal blood clotting.

More common risks include:

  • Immobility—such as hospitalization and prolonged sitting in one position (such as during air travel).
  • Injury to blood vessel—often a result of surgery, trauma, bone fractures, or venous catheters.
  • Hypercoagulation—having an increased rate of clotting that can be an inherited defect or acquired condition (Some of the inherited clotting defects can be found in other family members who have suffered from DVT and or PE).

When to See Your Doctor

You should see your doctor if you have unexplained onset of shortness of breath or swelling of one of your extremities (usually a lower extremity like your leg). Chest pain, coughing up blood and the feeling of a racing heart should prompt a discussion and possibly a visit with your healthcare provider. Persons with prior history of blood clots and/or strong family history of DVT should consult their clinician for counseling and testing.

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed December 13, 2016.

    Page Last Updated: July 23, 2019

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