When blood clots as a result of a cut or scrape, that’s a good thing. It keeps you from bleeding out of control. But when a clot happens in a blood vessel, it’s a very different story: it’s a ticking time bomb with the potential to cause a heart attack or stroke. A type of clot called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is especially dangerous. They often form in the legs and being farther from the surface, DVTs aren’t obvious. But if a DVT breaks free, it can cause a pulmonary embolism (a potentially lethal blood vessel blockage in the lungs). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 60,000 and 100,000 Americans die from DVT and pulmonary embolisms each year.
Blood clots can be treated but only if they’re discovered first. That’s why it’s important to know how to spot them. If you have any of the symptoms, you should call a doctor right away.
A change in color is one major warning sign. When a clot causes poor circulation, the immediate area may appear pale or bluish and there may be a warm or itchy sensation. There may also be swelling in the affected limb. Chest pain should always be taken seriously, particularly if there’s lightheadedness, shortness of breath or other breathing issue. Really bad chest pain could be a sign of a blood clot in the heart.
Symptoms of a possible pulmonary embolism include breathing problems, chest pains, dizziness, a fluttering sensation in the chest, and rapid heartbeat or palpitations. Coughing up blood is another pulmonary embolism symptom and if that happens, you should be alarmed, no matter what. The appearance of red streaks along veins that feel warm to the touch is a sign of a serious, life-threatening problem. Trouble with vision or speaking could be a sign that a clot has made its way to your brain; that also demands immediate medical attention.
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