Warning Signs of a DVT Blood Clot in Your Leg

  • Scientific image of red blood cells clotting
    Recognizing a DVT blood clot early can prevent potential complications.
    Everyone needs to know about DVT (deep vein thrombosis) blood clots because anyone can get one. If your risk is higher than normal, you need to be especially diligent about paying attention to the warning signs. Catching the problem early and seeking prompt treatment can prevent dangerous complications. It can also help you avoid long-term problems and disability. But it’s not always easy to recognize DVT symptoms. In fact, some people experience very mild symptoms. They may not realize they have a potentially life-threatening disease. Here are the five symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
  • Pregnany woman working at desk with shoe off due to foot swelling
    1. Leg Swelling
    Pain is another warning sign of a DVT blood clot. Like swelling, it usually only affects one leg and commonly starts in the calf. The pain may feel more like soreness, tenderness or achiness rather than a stabbing kind of pain. You may notice the pain is worse when you are walking or standing for periods of time. People sometimes mistake the pain for a pulled muscle or another muscle injury. But pain from a DVT blood clot will tend to get worse and not better with time or rest.
  • Close-up of woman's hands holding need in pain
    2. Leg Pain
    Pain is another warning sign of a DVT blood clot. Like swelling, it usually only affects one leg and commonly starts in the calf. The pain may feel more like soreness, tenderness or achiness rather than a stabbing kind of pain. You may notice the pain is worse when you are walking or standing for periods of time. People sometimes mistake the pain for a pulled muscle or another muscle injury. But pain from a DVT blood clot will tend to get worse and not better with time or rest.
  • Older male runner on group clutching knee in pain with wife checking
    3. Muscle Cramping
    Most people have experienced muscle cramping in a leg at some point in time. Typically, it’s a charley horse that strikes at night and only lasts a few minutes. A DVT blood clot can cause a calf cramp that feels a lot like a charley horse. Like leg pain, the cramping sensation with DVT will persist and even worsen with time. It won’t clear up with stretching or walking it off like an ordinary charley horse. Some people get thigh cramps or feel a throbbing sensation along with the cramping.
  • Close-up of woman's hand holding calf muscle on right leg
    4. Skin Warmth
    Many of the symptoms of DVT are due to blocked blood flow. Skin warmth is one of them. This is because instead of blood circulating normally, it backs up and fills progressively more of the outer veins, which warms the area. The skin in the region of a DVT blood clot may feel warm to the touch. The warmth may be limited to the area right over the vein. It may be noticeably warmer than surrounding skin that has a normal temperature. Sometimes, the whole calf or limb will be warmer than the other one.
  • Woman sitting on end of bed feeling front of leg
    5. Color Changes
    A DVT blood clot can cause color changes in the skin over and surrounding the vein. You may notice skin redness along with the pain or swelling. But the skin can also have different discolorations, such as a bluish or dark appearance. This is due to blocked blood flow in the area. Like other DVT symptoms, the color change will persist instead of resolving with time.
  • gettyimages 81714228
    Seek immediate medical care if you suspect a DVT blood clot.
    Many of the symptoms of DVT, such as redness, swelling and pain, are common to other conditions. However, a DVT blood clot is a medical emergency. It can lead to a life-threatening complication called a pulmonary embolism (PE). If you have symptoms that could mean a blood clot, err on the side of caution and seek immediate medical care. It’s better to get care and it turn out to be nothing serious than to delay care and risk your health, or even your life.
Know the 5 Warning Signs of a DVT Blood Clot in Your Leg

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 18
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.