Can You See The Signs Of Blood Clots In Your Legs

Watch Out for These Signs of Blood Clots in Your Legs

Blood clots in the legs, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), can be serious and sometimes life-threatening if left untreated. Knowing how to spot the signs and symptoms of DVT can help ensure prompt medical care. This article provides an in-depth look at whether can you see the signs of blood clots in your legs.

Blood clots that form within the deep veins of the leg – called deep vein thrombosis, or DVT – can be life-threatening if part of the clot breaks loose and travels to a major organ like the lungs. Yet spotting problematic clots early proves challenging because many symptoms are invisible and mimic other conditions. However, some visible signs and leg changes do occur with DVT that, if caught promptly, can signal the need for imaging and blood thinning treatment. Keep reading to learn what to look for on your legs that could indicate an underlying clot forming or already present.

Blood clots form when blood thickens and clumps together. Clots most often develop in the veins of the legs, a condition known as DVT. DVT affects around 1-2 people per 1,000 each year. If a clot breaks free and travels to the lungs, it can cause a blockage known as a pulmonary embolism. This is extremely dangerous and can even be fatal. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the symptoms of DVT early on.

Why Leg Clots Develop

Before detailing DVT’s visible red flags, first understand why leg clots form. Blood coagulates when it remains stagnant or altered within veins for too long. This most commonly follows:

  • Injury or surgery damaging veins
  • Flying or forced immobility for over 4 hours
  • Hospitalization for acute illness or post-surgery
  • Cancer, autoimmune disorders, infection, or inflammatory disease
  • Pregnancy and post-birth periods
  • Smoking, obesity, hormonal medications like birth control pills
  • Hypercoagulable genetic conditions

When risk factors like these are present, any subsequent change in the leg’s visible appearance warrants prompt medical evaluation.

Can You See The Signs Of Blood Clots In Your Legs?

We know blood clots in the legs, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), can produce distinct signs and symptoms. The main clues of a DVT include swelling, usually in just one leg, that often starts in the ankle and foot. There is also likely to be pain or tenderness in the affected leg that may feel like cramping or soreness. The skin over the area of a clot often appears reddish or bluish and feels warm to the touch due to increased blood flow around the clot. Visible surface veins may also appear swollen and cord-like. If any of these symptoms are present, especially in combination, it is important to see a doctor promptly to check for DVT and get proper treatment to prevent complications like pulmonary embolism.

Signs And Symptoms Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

The main symptoms of DVT affecting the legs are:


One of the most common signs is swelling in the leg, often in just one leg. This occurs as blood accumulates and is unable to properly drain back to the heart. Swelling often starts in the ankle and foot area. It may also cause skin tightness or indentation when pressed.


There is often pain or tenderness in the affected leg. This may feel like cramping or soreness. Pain often starts in the calf. It may also feel worse when standing or walking and improve with rest and elevation.


The skin of the leg may feel warmer than on the other side. This is due to increased blood flow in the area around the clot.


A reddish or bluish tint to the skin can appear as blood pools near the surface. This skin discoloration usually shows up around the swelling.

Visible surface veins

If swelling is severe, surface leg veins may become more visible and pronounced. The veins appear inflated or cord-like as they struggle to channel blood past the clot.

In addition to leg symptoms, other signs of DVT include:

  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain, especially when breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweating
  • Cough with bloody phlegm

These can indicate a pulmonary embolism, which requires emergency care.

Seek Immediate Medical Care for Suspected DVT

If any combination of the visible leg changes described above newly develop after periods of slowed blood flow like hospitalization, air travel, or an immobilizing injury DO seek an urgent care or ER evaluation EVEN if no pain exists. Catching clots early and initiating anticoagulant therapy quickly proves critical to preventing life-threatening pulmonary embolisms. Prompt medical care also reduces the risk of debilitating long-term leg vein damage called Post Thrombotic Syndrome.

Diagnosing Blood Clots

If DVT is suspected, tests will be done to confirm. These may include:

  • D-dimer blood test – Measures breakdown products from a clot. An abnormal result indicates a clot may be present.
  • Ultrasound – Uses sound waves to create images of the veins in the legs. Allows a clot to be directly visualized.
  • Venography – An imaging test using dye injected into the veins to highlight them on X-rays. Shows any blockages.
  • MRI or CT Scan – Provides images that may reveal clots in the legs.

Catching DVT early is key, before complications arise. If you have symptoms and risk factors, see a doctor right away. Prompt treatment can dissolve clots and prevent them from spreading.

Treatments For DVT

DVT is treated with medications and possibly procedures to break up or remove the clot. Treatment options may include:

  • Anticoagulants – Blood thinning medications like heparin or warfarin. These stop clot enlargement.
  • Thrombolytics – Specialized drugs that dissolve clots over time.
  • Compression stockings – Help prevent swelling and improve blood flow.
  • Filters – Can be placed in the major vein leaving the lower body to catch clots before they reach the lungs.
  • Thrombectomy – A surgical procedure to remove a large clot from the vein.

Recovery time for DVT varies. Swelling and pain often improve within 1-2 weeks with proper treatment. However, symptoms can linger for some. Walking regularly once able can help prevent another DVT.

Preventing Blood Clots

Certain steps can help lower your risk of developing DVT:

  • Maintain a healthy weight for your height.
  • Exercise regularly to boost circulation.
  • Avoid long periods of sitting or immobility.
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids daily.
  • Don’t smoke or quit if you do.
  • Know the signs of DVT and get prompt medical attention for symptoms.

Compression stockings may also be recommended when traveling or hospitalized to guard against clots forming

Complication of DVT

Here are some potential complications that can arise from deep vein thrombosis (DVT):

  • Pulmonary embolism – The most serious complication. If part of the clot breaks off, it can travel to the lungs and cause a blockage.
  • Post-thrombotic syndrome – Damage to the venous valves can cause long-term swelling, pain, and leg ulcers.
  • Recurrent DVT – Once you’ve had one DVT, you’re at higher risk for developing another.
  • Bleeding – Anticoagulant medications used to treat DVT increase the risk of excessive bleeding.
  • Leg ulcers – The swelling caused by DVT can lead to open sores, especially around the ankles.
  • Phlegmasia cerulea dolens – A severe complication where there is extensive clotting that blocks all blood flow, causing severe pain and acute limb ischemia.
  • Loss of limb function – If the clot damages the veins extensively, it can reduce circulation enough to impair limb function.
  • Chronic venous insufficiency – Long-term improper blood flow can worsen varicose veins.
  • Death – A DVT can be fatal if a pulmonary embolism occurs and causes right heart failure.

Seeking prompt treatment for a DVT as soon as symptoms appear can help prevent many of these complications from developing or worsening.

What Is The Connection Between DVT And Pulmonary Embolism?

There is a direct connection between deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs and pulmonary embolism. Here’s a brief overview:

  • DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the leg. This blocks proper blood flow.
  • If all or part of the clot breaks off, it can travel through the bloodstream to the lungs.
  • The clot will eventually lodge in and block an artery in the lungs. This blocked artery is called a pulmonary embolism.
  • A pulmonary embolism is very serious and can be fatal if not treated right away. It blocks oxygenated blood from reaching the lungs and heart.
  • About 1 in 4 untreated DVT cases leads to a pulmonary embolism.
  • Any symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, rapid heart rate, or coughing up blood after a DVT require emergency medical care.
  • Treating a DVT with blood thinners helps prevent clots from dislodging and lowers the risks of pulmonary embolism.

So in summary, a DVT that forms in the leg veins can directly cause a pulmonary embolism if part of the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs. This makes promptly treating DVT essential.

Signs and Symptoms Of Pulmonary Embolism?

Here is a table outlining the main signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism:

Signs and Symptoms Description
Shortness of breath Sudden onset of difficulty breathing or getting winded easily
Chest pain Sharp or stabbing pain that may get worse with deep breaths
Rapid heart rate Heart racing or pounding
Cough May cough up blood-tinged mucus
Lightheadedness Feeling like you may pass out
Sweating Sudden unexplained sweating
Anxiety The feeling of impending doom or extreme fear
Fainting Temporary loss of consciousness
Low blood pressure Symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, nausea
Abnormal breathing sounds Crackles or wheezing heard through a stethoscope

Any sudden unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting requires prompt emergency medical care to check for a potential pulmonary embolism. Rapid treatment is critical.

Treatments Of Pulmonary Embolism?

Here are the main treatments for a pulmonary embolism:

  • Anticoagulants – Blood thinners like heparin or warfarin that help stop clot enlargement and prevent new clots from forming. They don’t break up existing clots though.
  • Thrombolytics – Specialized drugs like tPA that help dissolve the blood clot over time. Often used for severe PEs.
  • Catheter-directed thrombolysis – Uses a catheter guided to the clot to deliver thrombolytics directly to break up the clot.
  • Surgical embolectomy – A procedure to surgically remove large clots from the main pulmonary arteries.
  • Inferior vena cava filter – A filter placed in a large vein to prevent clots from reaching the lungs.
  • Compression stockings – help with swelling and prevent new clots in the legs.
  • Oxygen therapy – Provides extra oxygen support if levels are low.

The length of treatment depends on the severity of the pulmonary embolism. Anticoagulants are usually taken for at least 3-6 months after a PE to help prevent recurrence. Close monitoring and follow-up are crucial.

Complications of Pulmonary Embolism?

Here are some potential complications that can arise from a pulmonary embolism:

  • Recurrent pulmonary embolism – If anticoagulant treatment is stopped prematurely or is inadequate, new clots can form, increasing risks.
  • Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension – If clots do not dissolve completely, they can cause high blood pressure in the lungs.
  • Right heart strain – The pressure on the right heart chambers from blocked pulmonary arteries can lead to right ventricular dysfunction.
  • Low oxygen levels – Decreased oxygen in the blood from blocked arteries can damage organs like the brain and heart.
  • Lung damage – The affected part of the lung may die off due to lack of blood flow, creating dead space.
  • Paradoxical embolism – A clot could pass through a patent foramen ovale and enter the arterial system, causing stroke, heart attack, or other arterial occlusion.
  • Death – Massive pulmonary embolisms or those that go untreated can lead to death from right heart failure or arrhythmia.

The risk of complications and death underlines the importance of prompt diagnosis and treatment of all pulmonary embolisms before they worsen.

Diagnosing Of Pulmonary Embolism?

Here are some of the main diagnostic tests used to detect a pulmonary embolism:

  • D-dimer blood test – Measures breakdown products from a clot. High levels indicate a clot may be present.
  • Chest X-ray – Can identify abnormalities like fluid buildup or collapsed lung tissue associated with PE.
  • CT angiogram – Uses injected contrast dye and CT imaging to visualize clots in the pulmonary arteries.
  • Pulmonary angiogram – Contrast dye is injected into the pulmonary arteries while X-ray images are taken to highlight blockages.
  • Ventilation/perfusion scan – Radionuclide imaging compares air and blood flow in the lungs. Mismatched areas can pinpoint clots.
  • Echocardiogram – Looks at the heart structure and function to check for signs of right heart strain.
  • Venous ultrasound – Checks the leg veins for DVT which can cause PE. Helps identify the clot source.
  • MRI or leg vein imaging – Alternative methods to diagnose DVT if ultrasound is inconclusive.
  • Electrocardiogram – Checks for signs of right heart strain like inverted T-waves or Qr pattern.

The main diagnostic tools are CT angiography, pulmonary angiography, and ventilation/perfusion scanning. Multiple tests may be used to confirm a PE diagnosis before starting treatment.

Are DVT and Pulmonary Embolism Cureable?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism can be cured and resolved in most cases with proper treatment, but there are some important points:

  • DVT requires long-term anticoagulant medication (usually 3-6 months or longer) to allow the clot to be slowly dissolved by the body and prevent new clots from forming.
  • A PE caused by a DVT also requires rapid treatment with anticoagulants to stop the clot breaking off further and allow it to dissolve over time.
  • Quick treatment usually leads to complete clot dissolution and resolution of symptoms. However, some clot remnants or damage may persist.
  • Up to 50% of those with a DVT/PE will have long-term effects like leg pain and swelling. Post-thrombotic syndrome can cause leg ulcers.
  • Around 30% of those diagnosed with PE have some degree of pulmonary hypertension afterward.
  • Recurrence risk is higher once you’ve had a DVT or PE, so preventive measures must be taken.

While DVT and PE are very treatable, they can have lasting effects. Close medical follow-up and management are key after diagnosis. However, with proper anticoagulant treatment, most clots can be eliminated fully.

Treatment Cost Of DVT And Pulmonary Embolism

The treatment costs for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) can vary greatly, but here is an overview of typical pricing in the United States:

  • Initial diagnosis – Expect to pay $1,000-$5,000 for tests like ultrasounds, CT scans, lab work, and doctor consultations to confirm a DVT or PE.
  • Medications – Anticoagulants for DVT/PE treatment typically cost $100-$200 per month through insurance. Uninsured may pay $500 or more per month.
  • Hospitalization – If hospitalized for a DVT or PE, costs usually range from $20,000-$50,000 depending on length of stay.
  • Procedures – Thrombolysis for severe clots can cost $5,000-$10,000. IVC filters run $7,000-$20,000. Surgery for $15,000-$35,000.
  • Follow-up monitoring – Regular INR testing and doctor visits may cost $200-$500 per month initially.
  • Complications – Recurrent DVT/PE, long-term effects, and pulmonary hypertension all increase lifetime costs significantly.
  • Insurance coverage – Most insurance plans cover a large portion of DVT/PE treatment costs, but copays and deductibles apply.

The total costs over a lifetime can add up, especially if hospitalization or complications occur. Having insurance and adhering to treatment helps manage costs. Uninsured patients face the highest financial burden.

Natural Treatment Of DVT and Pulmonary Embolism

There are no proven natural or home remedies that should replace conventional medical treatment for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE). However, some complementary therapies may help support treatment:

  • Exercise – Light physical activity as soon as possible can help improve circulation. Walking is best as it activates the calf muscle pump.
  • Compression stockings – Help manage swelling and improve blood flow in the legs.
  • Elevation – Raising the legs above the heart level helps minimize swelling.
  • Massage – Gentle massage may relieve pain and swelling. Avoid massaging directly over the clot site.
  • Stay hydrated – Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water can help prevent blood thickening.
  • Healthy diet – Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Avoid excess salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats.
  • Lose weight – If overweight, losing even a few pounds can improve many cardiovascular factors.
  • Quit smoking – Smoking greatly increases the risks of DVT/PE recurrence.

However, these natural remedies cannot cure, dissolve, or prevent the progression of existing clots. They should only be used as a complement, not a replacement, for doctor-prescribed DVT and PE treatment.


How do I know leg pain signals a DVT versus muscle injury or arthritis?

Trauma, arthritis, or injuries cause isolated limb pain whereas clots usually produce diffuse calf/thigh swelling, skin warmth, and discoloration whether or not aching exists. Vein evaluation helps clarify.

My mother has bad varicose veins. Would we notice if a clot forms?

Possibly not. Significant varicose veins can conceal some DVT signs initially. But with risky profiles, any acute unexplained leg swelling still warrants imaging to check blood flow.

My leg occasionally swells after long flights. Is this a recurring clot?

Maybe – some people prone to edema and vein changes due to inactivity and blood stagnation CAN produce mild repetitive clots. Discuss the risks/benefits of post-flight blood thinners with your doctor.

Can tiny clots be visually detected in the legs?

Rarely – small soleal or muscular calf vein clots won’t likely cause visible skin changes. Only imaging tests diagnose these. Larger clots obstructing the main deep veins are more obvious visually through significant acute leg changes.

Are blood clots in legs more common in men or women?

DVT is more common in women than men. Factors like pregnancy, birth control use, and hormone therapy increase risk for women. However, men over age 60 do have a higher incidence of DVT.

How long do you have to be immobile to develop DVT?

A: Prolonged sitting or immobility for more than 4 hours can begin increasing the chance of blood clots forming. This risk goes up the longer someone is immobile, such as on long flights over 8 hours.

Can you die from a blood clot in your leg?

Yes, death can occur if an untreated DVT breaks off, travels to the lungs, and causes a large pulmonary embolism. Quick treatment is vital.

What helps dissolve blood clots naturally?

A: Some natural remedies may help improve circulation, but aren’t recommended as DVT treatment. See a doctor immediately if you suspect a clot. Prompt medical care is crucial.

Are blood clots in legs common after surgery?

Yes, surgery is linked to a higher risk of DVT, especially knee and hip replacement. Hospitals often provide preventive measures like compression stockings and anticoagulants.

Last Words

blood clots can certainly become large and disruptive enough to create visible leg changes picked up by skin redness, warmth, abrupt swelling, or dilated veins in at-risk individuals. This can stop clots from breaking off and causing possible life-threatening complications. Be aware of personal risk factors and take steps to stay active, exercise, and maintain good circulation. However, catching a DVT at its earliest stages before symptoms manifest requires proactive testing. If you undergo periods of slowed blood flow through injury, travel, illness, or medications, remain vigilant for subtle swelling or pain since prompt clot treatment saves lives and limbs. Don’t ignore swelling, pain, warmth, or other signs of potential blood clots in your legs.


My name is Selina, a medical specialist blogger helping people access treatment for 5+ years. Although blogging awhile, only recently deeply engaged. This past year my most productive, providing hospital reviews and info on symptoms, diagnoses and diseases. Also offer guidelines to help readers navigate healthcare. Goal to continue increased content pace to assist many. Aim to facilitate treatment and empower advocacy through writing.

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