Early symptoms of deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism

The early symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) may or may not be related to a pulmonary embolism (PE). On the other hand, PE may be the first sign that a person has DTV. DTV occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) is formed in a deep vein, usually in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, though it may occur in the arm as well. PE is the most serious complication of DTV, and it takes place when part of the clot breaks off (embolus) and causes a blockage in the lungs. A thrombus in the thigh is more likely to become an embolus than one in the lower leg or another part of the body.

Deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism symptoms


·         Swelling of the leg or along a vein in the leg.

·         Leg pain.

·         Increased warmth in the swollen or painful area of the leg.

·         Leg tenderness.

·         Leg skin redness.


·         Difficulty breathing.

·         Faster or irregular heartbeat.

·         Chest pain with deep breathing.

·         Anxiety.

·         Coughing up blood.

·         Low blood pressure.

·         Lightheadedness.

·         Fainting.



Anything that keeps the blood from circulating normally or clotting can cause a blood clot. This can happen to anyone, but certain factors increase the risk of DTV.

Deep vein thrombosis risk factors



Vein injury

·         Fractures.

·         Severe muscle injury.

·         Major surgery.

Sluggish blood flow

  • Confinement to bed.
  • Limited movement.
  • Sitting for a long time, in particular with legs crossed.
  • Paralysis.

Increased estrogen

  • Birth control pills.
  • Hormone replacement therapy.
  • Pregnancy, for up to 6 weeks after giving birth.

Chronic conditions

·         Heart disease.

·         Lung disease.

·         Cancer and its treatment.

·         Inflammatory bowel disease.

Hereditary disorders

·         V Leiden.


·         Previous DVT or PE.

·         Family history of DVT or PE.

·         Age.

·         Obesity.

·         A catheter located in a central vein.

·         Recent or ongoing cancer treatment.


In addition to pulmonary embolism, one-third of people with DTV experience a complication called post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS) – also known as postphlebitic syndrome. Signs of PTS include edema, leg pain, skin discoloration and sores, and scaling or ulcers in the affected area. Furthermore, DTV/PE may become a chronic condition. Unlike blood clots in an artery – usually in the brain or heart – DTV does not cause heart attack or stroke. Generally speaking, DTV can cause illness, disability, and death. Though very serious, this condition can be diagnosed, treated, and even prevented.


Deep vein thrombosis

Pulmonary embolism


·         Duplex ultrasonography.

·         D-dimer blood test.

·         Contrast venography.

·         Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

·         Computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA).

·         Ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) scan.

·         Pulmonary angiography.

·         Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


·         Compression stockings.

·         Thrombectomy/Embolectomy.

·         Immediate medical care with clot-busting medications called thrombolytics.

·         Prescription anticoagulants (aka blood-thinners) to prevent future clots.

·         Vena cava filter in case blood-thinners are not an option.


·         Losing weight.

·         Quitting smoking.

·         Avoiding sitting still

-        Getting up and walking around every 2-3 hours.

·         Exercising legs when sitting

-        Raising and lowering heels while keeping toes on the floor.

-        Raising and lowering toes while keeping heels on the floor.

·         Tightening and releasing leg muscles.

·         Moving around after being bedridden following surgery, illness, or injury.

·         Being physically active in general.

·         Wearing loose-fitting clothes.



There is a low risk of developing DTV while traveling long distance – risk which can be reduced even further by doing the following:

·         Move legs frequently and exercise calf muscles to improve the flow of blood.

·         Flex and stretch feet to improve blood flow in calves.

·         Walk up and down the aisles of the bus, train, or airplane.

·         Stop about every hour and walk around if traveling by car.

·         Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol.

·         Some airlines suggest pulling each knee up toward the chest and holding it there with hands on lower leg for 15 seconds, and repeat up to 10 times.

Related: Early symptoms of pulmonary hypertension