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Deep vein thrombosis - What are the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

The most obvious symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are swelling or pain in the calf or thigh of one leg, or both swelling and pain.

The affected part of the leg can also:[14]

  • Feel hot

  • Go red or purple.

dvt-rash_default.jpgBut some people with DVT don't get any symptoms.

If you have a blood clot and it travels to the artery of one of your lungs (called a pulmonary embolism), you can:[14]

  • Get breathless

  • Feel dizzy

  • Have chest pains

  • Cough up blood

  • Feel your heart racing.

Some of these symptoms can happen with other illnesses too, not just DVT or pulmonary embolism.

To find out whether you have DVT, your doctor will want to know about your symptoms as well as your health in general. They will also examine your affected leg. But doctors can't tell whether you have DVT simply by examining you. If your doctor thinks you could have DVT, they will send you for some tests straight away.

  • You will probably need an ultrasound scan to see whether there's a blood clot in your leg. This scan is good at detecting clots above your knee but less so at spotting clots below your knee. You'll need to go to hospital to have this test.

  • You might be offered a blood test that can tell doctors whether you have a high or low chance of having DVT. This is called the D-dimer blood test.

  • If your doctor is still uncertain about whether you have DVT, you may need a special type of x-ray where you have dye injected into a vein. This is called venography.

  • If your doctor thinks you have a clot in your calf, you may need another ultrasound scan in about one week to find out whether the clot has travelled above your knee (this is called proximal DVT). If you have proximal DVT, part of the clot is more likely to break off and travel to your lungs. This is a pulmonary embolism and it is dangerous.

To find out whether you have a pulmonary embolism, you'll need other hospital tests, including scans of your lungs.



Arteries are the blood vessels that take blood that is rich in oxygen and food away from your heart. The arteries carry this blood to all the tissues in your body.

pulmonary embolism

A pulmonary embolism can give you chest pain, make you feel breathless and uncomfortable or make you breathe rapidly. A pulmonary embolism is dangerous and can kill you if it is not treated.


Ultrasound is a tool doctors use to create images of the inside of your body. An ultrasound machine sends out high-frequency sound waves, which are directed at an area of your body. The waves reflect off parts of your body to create a picture. Ultrasound is often used to see a developing baby inside a woman's womb.


Veins are blood vessels that carry blood back to your heart after your blood has delivered oxygen and food to the tissues.


X-rays are pictures taken of the inside of your body. They are made by passing small amounts of radiation through your body and then onto film.

For more terms related to Deep vein thrombosis


For references related to Deep vein thrombosis click here.
Last Updated: December 05, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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