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How Do I Know If I Have a Blood Clot?

How Do I Know If I Have a Blood Clot?

Blood clots can cause serious health risks, including stroke. Find out what signs to look for.

Twenty-four-year-old Spanish skateboarding star Danny León got made up to look like a not-so-steady-on-his-feet 80-year-old man. His goal: To see if teens at a local skate park would teach him the sport. They obliged, but when Danny started speeding down the half-pike and doing aerial spins, well, the kids were blown away.

Being a force of nature disguised as a harmless old guy—that’s a pretty good metaphor for the way a blood clot can disguise itself as a simple bruise. But don’t fall for it.

Bruises can be painful and turn shades of black and blue, but generally they’re not harmful. One caveat: Easy or spontaneous bruising can indicate underlying disease, so see your doc.

A blood clot, on the other hand, is a concentrated aggregation of blood. It forms from an external injury to blood vessels or internal injury to the lining of a blood vessel from plaque, or because of dysfunction in your blood’s flow-and-clot chemistry. Clots can obstruct blood flow or dislodge and travel through your bloodstream, triggering heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE). So if you spot a clot, see your doc. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Near your skin’s surface, clots can appear bruise-like but are generally redder, and the underlying vein may be hard to the touch.
  • A clot that’s moved and is causing trouble may trigger swelling and pain in an extremity (DVT); slurred speech and vision problems (stroke); chest pain or upper body discomfort, shortness of breath and a rapid heart rate (PE or heart attack).

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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