Some blood clots in the leg veins do not cause any symptoms. However, when the blood clots involve larger veins, they generally cause redness, warmth, tenderness, swelling (edema), and a sensation of heaviness in the leg, particularly when you’ve been standing. You can check for edema by pressing your finger into your lower leg. If you have edema, the pressure from your finger will create a small dent in your lower leg for several seconds.
A pulmonary embolism may not cause any symptoms, mild symptoms, or serious symptoms that indicate a life-threatening emergency. Symptoms tend to be more severe when the blood clot is larger. Symptoms with a larger clot include sudden shortness of breath and chest pain. The pain tends to be knife-like, and often is worse when you take deep breaths. If the pulmonary embolism is very large, symptoms may be more dramatic, such as a fainting spells, severe shortness of breath, and coughing up blood. A large pulmonary embolus can cause sudden death.
When to Call a Professional
- Call your doctor or go to a hospital emergency room immediately if you develop shortness of breath or sharp chest pain.
- Call your doctor if you have swelling, pain, redness or warmth in one leg.
- If you had a LENI test that was inconclusive and your doctor asked you to return in three or four days for another test, call your doctor sooner if your leg swelling worsens.
If you have a DVT or pulmonary embolism, your symptoms should improve within a few days after starting treatment with blood-thinning medication. However, you will need to take medication for at least three to six months to prevent more blood clots from forming. Most people recover completely, but some people who had a very large pulmonary embolism or who already had lung disease will continue to have lung problems. Some people who have had a DVT develop a long-term problem with swelling of their legs called post-phlebitic syndrome. These people often need to wear special stockings that help squeeze blood back toward the heart.