Deep Vein Thrombosis Symptoms

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot develops in one of the large, deep veins of the body. The blood clot, or thrombus, can cause a number of symptoms, the most significant of which are circulation problems and pain. If left untreated, a deep vein thrombosis can worsen and become life-threatening.

Although the veins in our legs are those most susceptible to blood clot formation, deep vein thrombosis can occur in any large vein, including blood vessels in the pelvis and arms. The location and size of the blood clot often determines the severity of symptoms.

Blood Clot Symptoms and DVT

Localized pain and swelling are the most common blood clot symptoms. On the skin’s surface, the area around the blood clot may be red, swollen or possibly bluish in color. Vein inflammation, or thrombophlebitis, often occurs with DVT. Depending on the size and location of the blood clot, veins may feel hard to the touch.

Less common symptoms of a blood clot include:

  • chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • fainting
  • feelings of anxiety
  • rapid pulse
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating.

Shortness of breath and chest pain are serious symptoms that may indicate a clot in the lungs, also called a pulmonary embolism. Although not all blood clots will end up being this serious, any blood clot symptoms you experience should be reported to a health professional immediately. While many blood clots dissolve naturally within a week or two of formation, waiting for DVT symptoms to resolve on their own can be fatal.

Unfortunately, symptoms of a blood clot are not present in as many as 50 percent of deep vein thrombosis cases. As a result, clinical imaging or other tools are required to make a diagnosis.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Risk Factors

Possible risk factors for DVT include:

  • autoimmune disorders (i.e., lupus)
  • childbirth (within the past six months)
  • genetic coagulation disorders
  • hormone replacement therapy
  • inactivity
  • long airplane flights
  • oral contraceptives
  • pregnancy
  • prolonged bed rest
  • surgery (especially knee and hip surgery).

The risk of deep vein thrombosis increases when multiple risk factors are present. For instance, a woman undergoing hormone replacement therapy is more likely to develop a blood clot if she is also recovering from knee surgery.

DVT and Genetic Disorders

As previously mentioned, genetic coagulation disorders increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis. The reason for this lies in the fact that genetic defects can affect the levels of coagulation proteins and chemicals a person has and is able to produce. Each of the following proteins or chemicals is key to the coagulation process, including:

  • antithrombin III
  • factor V Leiden
  • protein C
  • protein S
  • prothrombin.

DVT Statistics

Because DVT is a potentially fatal condition, understanding the associated symptoms is essential to maintaining your health. Here are a few statistics about DVT that underscore the prevalence and gravity of this condition:

  • About 2 million people in the United States are diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis each year.
  • Of these patients, 30 percent develop pulmonary embolism, blood clots in the lungs.
  • Each year, roughly 200,000 (or 33 percent) of the patients who develop pulmonary embolism die of the condition.
  • Pulmonary embolism kills more people each year than breast cancer.


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2001). Deep vein thrombosis. Retrieved January 16, 2004, from