Arm Thrombosis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Warnings and Precautions

One of the critical reasons for the appearance of clots in the body is due to thickening of the blood.

DVT or deep vein thrombosis is the result of blood clots in the veins.

If clots occur, it is possible for the vein to rupture traveling to other parts through the bloodstream.

Upper extremity deep vein thrombosis is becoming more common, although it is still much less common than lower extremity deep vein thrombosis.

The treatment of choice is anticoagulation , which is administered analogously to that administered for deep vein thrombosis of the lower extremity.

If treatments don’t resolve the problem or if your clot is very large, your doctor may recommend removing the clot.

The blood clot can be broken by injecting medicine into the problem vein, or it can be broken and surgically removed.

Thrombosis in the arm causes more complications than in the leg

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) usually occurs in the legs, but it can also appear in the upper extremities, in the arms.

A recent study of data from the RIETE registry, and published in clinical and applied thrombosis / hemostasis, has analyzed the differences between both thrombosis locations during anticoagulant therapy and has detected some different characteristics.

Therefore, people with a deep vein thrombosis in the arm for no known reason were more likely to have recurrences of the thrombotic event than were patients with a thrombosis in the leg for no known reason.

However, the incidence of pulmonary embolism and risk of bleeding was similar in both cases.

The researchers also studied the differences between the cases of thrombosis in the arm related to the presence or not of catheters.

They found that patients without a catheter and with no known cause of deep vein thrombosis had a lower risk of pulmonary embolism and major bleeding compared to cases with a catheter or known cause.

What is a blood clot?

When it is cut, the components of your blood clump together to form a clot. This stops the bleeding.

Sometimes the blood inside your veins or arteries can form a semi-solid lump and cause a useless clot. This can be detrimental.

If you have a clot in your veins deep in your body, it is called a deep vein thrombosis.

If you have a clot in your veins near the surface of your inflamed skin, it is called superficial thrombophlebitis. Clots that travel and travel to other places in the body are called emboli.

Deep vein thrombosis usually occurs in the veins of the legs, but it can also develop in the arms. When it occurs in the arms, it is called upper extremity deep vein thrombosis (DVT-UE).

Of all cases of deep vein thrombosis, 4 to 10 percent are deep vein thrombosis of the upper extremities, according to a 2017 systematic review.

Can deep vein thrombosis occur in the arm?

Yes, it is possible for anyone to have deep vein thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis in their arm.

With the onset of deep vein thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis, clots can travel to the lungs, causing restriction and leading to pulmonary embolism.

However, the probability of occurrence of deep vein thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis is low in the arm compared to its presence in the calves or pelvis.

One reason for clot formation is spending a long time without any movement in the body. For example, a person who is in bed for a time after major surgery, a person who travels on long plane trips, and aging are some of the reasons.

Clots start to form when a person reaches their 40s. Until they reach their 50s, symptoms constantly increase. However, after crossing the 50+ mark, there is a sudden increase and one can quickly notice the changes.

In addition to the appearance of deep vein thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis in the legs, there is the possibility that it occurs above the waist, especially in the arms.

Called an upper extremity deep vein thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis, it has the potential to cause a pulmonary embolism. About 10% of people fall into this segment.

Upper extremity deep vein thrombosis can occur in any of the upper extremity veins or thoracic inlet. These include the jugular, brachiocephalic, subclavian, and axillary veins, as well as the more distal brachial, ulnar, and radial veins.

Deep vein thrombosis of the upper extremity must be distinguished from thrombosis of the superficial veins, that is, the cephalic and basilic veins.

Idiopathic upper extremity deep vein thrombosis and cases due to anatomical variants are known as primary upper extremity deep vein thrombosis.

The occurrence of secondary upper extremity deep vein thrombosis, on the other hand, is associated with tumor disease, intravenous catheters, and pacemaker leads.

The increasing incidence of these risk factors and, therefore, of the resulting cases of deep vein thrombosis of the upper extremity is leading to a growing interest in this disease.

Data on upper extremity deep vein thrombosis are limited and heterogeneous. No randomized controlled trials have been published, and there are very few non-randomized comparative or intervention studies.

Most of the publications on upper extremity deep vein thrombosis are case series or cohort studies. This excludes a formal meta-analysis but allows for a systematic review.

Symptoms of venous thrombosis in the arm

The signs that can cause deep vein thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis in the arms are vague. The reason is that one can have the similar symptoms due to prevailing health conditions. The symptoms are:

  • Neck Pain.
  • Shoulder pain.
  • Skin turning blue.
  • Swelling of the arm
  • Arm weakness develops.
  • Pain that increases and travels to the forearm.

Blood clotting is a normal part of the body and is not necessarily harmful. If the body did not have this ability, a simple cut would cause it to bleed out.

The human body is a delicate ecosystem that constantly analyzes and repairs damaged tissue, and this also applies to blood vessels, as they are often subject to constant stress and trauma from blood circulation.

If a blood clot forms in a blood vessel in the arm that is large, it can cut off blood circulation and have the following symptoms:

Inflammation of the affected arm: This occurs due to the accumulation of blood, as it cannot pass beyond the blockage.

Arm pain or tenderness – Initially can be described as a cramp. Blocking blood to the rest of the arm can lead to tissue damage. This manifests as pain in the affected area and can also be tender to the touch.

Pain is one of the most common symptoms of a blood clot. It can be mild if the clot is small or severe if it is large or located in an artery.

Arterial blood clots are particularly painful because blocking the artery reduces the supply of oxygen to the area supplied by the artery, leading to cell malfunction and even death.

Blood clots in superficial veins, the veins located just below the surface of the skin, usually cause pain in the area immediately around the clot.

Deep vein thrombosis blood clots tend to cause more widespread pain, sometimes affecting much of the arm. The pain with these clots often begins as a mild discomfort, then becomes increasingly severe.

Reddish or bluish discoloration of the skin and the arm is warm to the touch : This discoloration, which is more easily identified in people with lighter skin, is a distinctive sign of what a blood clot looks like in the arm.

The affected area usually has a higher temperature than the rest of the body. Stagnant blood can irritate blood vessels and cause the area to become relatively warmer than the opposite arm.

When a vein clot from deep vein thrombosis prevents most of the blood flow in the arm, the backward blood causes the hand and arm to become warm and appear dark red, purplish, or bluish in color.

Superficial vein blood clots are almost always accompanied by significant inflammation of the surrounding vein, a condition known as thrombophlebitis.

This inflammation makes the skin overlying the vein bright red and warm. Arterial blood clots generally cause the skin in the area supplied by the artery to turn pale and cold, as less blood enters the region.

Distension of the veins : appearance of congested or stretched veins. Since the blood has nowhere to go, it results in the veins in the arm being stretched in an attempt to accommodate the increased volume seen at the clot site.

When a blood clot forms in a superficial vein, the vein may feel firmer than normal. This may not be obvious initially, but over time the clot generally becomes more solid and firm.

Also, the vein distal to the clot, that is, the area of ​​the vein furthest from the upper arm, may appear enlarged due to the clot-like dam effect.

With a deep vein thrombosis blood clot, similar changes occur but are not seen because the vein is hidden deep in the arm.

However, when blood flow is blocked by a clot in the axillary or subclavian vein, some of the blood can be diverted through other veins in the area.

This can lead to enlarged superficial veins in the upper arm, shoulder, and upper chest.

Swelling – This is usually more obvious with venous clots from deep vein thrombosis.

These clots usually form in the axillary and subclavian veins, which are the large veins that run from the upper arm, through the underarm and shoulder regions to the chest.

These veins are responsible for carrying most of the blood from the arm to the heart, so when they become blocked, the blood backs up causing prominent swelling of the hand and much of the arm.

Superficial vein clotted swelling tends to be localized in the area around the clot. It is mainly caused by inflammation of the vein that contains the clot.

Swelling is rare with arterial blood clots, which appear only when extensive cell death occurs in the area supplying the artery.

Other Symptoms : A mild fever of up to 100.4 F may appear as part of the body’s response to any type of blood clot.

A high fever suggests the presence of an infection, which may be located in the vein with the clot, a condition called septic thrombophlebitis, or in another area.

Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hand or arm with an arterial blood clot can occur if nerve or muscle function is impaired due to inadequate blood supply.

Deep vein thrombosis and blood clots that cause significant swelling can increase the pressure inside the arm.

This condition, known as compartment syndrome, can also impede nerve or muscle activity in the area.

What Causes Venous Thrombosis in the Arm?

The existence of venous thrombosis in the arms has several possible actions. However, among all of them, the following have a significant impact:

Strenuous Activity – There is a possibility of it occurring due to vigorous exercise, such as carrying a heavy backpack. Events such as rowing and throwing a baseball lead to the development of the clot in the blood vessel, leading to a lump.

These are spontaneous, and the appearance is weird. When they appear, the younger generation is the most select or the athletes.

Trauma – A fracture involving ribs, humerus, or injury has a high probability of disease occurring as it damages blood vessels and the surrounding area.

Medical procedures : Pacing or using a central venous catheter can only lead to deep vein thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis in the veins.

The possible explanation is that the catheter, placed by the doctor, can cause damage to the vessels throughout the period or while continuing to administer the medication.

Warnings and cautions

Blood clots can lead to pulmonary embolisms. These are pieces of clot that are released and travel through the bloodstream to the lung, where they block a pulmonary artery.

Pulmonary embolism occurs in at least 3 to 12 percent of people with a deep vein thrombosis blood clot in the arm, according to a June 2011 article in “Vascular Medicine.”

Typical symptoms are sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, and cough, sometimes with blood-tinged mucus. Large pulmonary embolisms can cause dizziness, loss of consciousness, and even death. Pulmonary embolisms rarely occur with superficial venous clots.

Arterial blood clots do not cause pulmonary embolisms, but parts of the clot can dislodge and become trapped in the smaller arteries of the arm, especially the fingertips.

Complete blockage of these vessels can eventually lead to brown or black skin discoloration and other symptoms of gangrene, a condition characterized by localized tissue death.

When to see a doctor?

If you experience any of the serious symptoms mentioned above, it would be a good idea to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

To establish the diagnosis and begin appropriate treatment. Even if your doctor determines that you do not have a blood clot, you may have another serious condition that causes these symptoms, such as an infection.

Also, your doctor will be able to investigate whether you have an underlying medical disorder that led to the clot, such as cancer, atherosclerosis, or a heart rhythm abnormality called atrial fibrillation.

Seek emergency medical attention if you develop severe pain or swelling, or sudden paleness or coldness in your arm. Also get immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms that suggest a pulmonary embolus.

Having a blood clot in your arm may not be immediately life-threatening, but it can be an indicator of excessive clotting.

This can lead to more clots in other parts of the body that need to be identified right away. The following should direct you to see a doctor immediately:

  • Short of breath.
  • Chest pain.
  • Numbness in the face, arm, or leg and sudden weakness.
  • Pain that spreads to the back, jaw, or shoulder.
  • Chronic headaches and dizziness.
  • Palpitations in the affected area, or in the hands and feet.
  • Redness, swelling, pain, or numbness in the arm or leg.

By consulting a doctor, you will be satisfied that you are receiving effective treatment for your condition.

Doctors have the ability to order tests, prescribe medication, and even recommend that you stay in the hospital if they feel that it is in your best health and safety.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and ultrasound are the methods adopted by a doctor to identify the presence of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis in the arms.

If you had surgery, had a central line implanted, or a pacemaker was placed, your healthcare team will watch for signs of blood clots.

They will be able to diagnose and treat you quickly. If you are at home and you notice any symptoms of a blood clot, make an appointment with your doctor.

Your doctor will start with a physical exam and ask you a series of questions about when your symptoms started, what you were doing before they started, and other symptoms you may have. Then you will probably take an imaging test.

An ultrasound is the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to look for a blood clot in your arm. In this test, sound waves penetrate your skin and create a view of your veins.

Other imaging tests that your doctor may use to make a diagnosis or to help guide treatment include:

CT scan : This imaging test can be used to rule out blood clots in parts of your body other than your arm. It uses computers and X-rays to take cross-sectional images of your body.

MRI scan : An MRI scan uses radio waves and magnets to take pictures of your body. This test can be used to see your veins.

Contrast Venography : For this procedure, contrast dye is injected, and then X-rays are used to view your veins.

Treatment of thrombosis in the arm

Serious blood clots often require a visit to the emergency room, as they can be life-threatening if not caught early.

If you are diagnosed with a deep vein clot in your arm, the main goals of treatment will be to stop the clot from growing, relieve your symptoms, and prevent the clot from moving into your lungs or other parts of your body that can cause damage.

Blood thinners, which essentially dissolve the clot and prevent new ones from forming, will likely be given in the emergency room.

These are designed to inhibit blood clotting factors vital to the clotting process. Antiplatelet medication can also be used for the same reasons, but to dissolve platelets.

Once the initial treatment is complete, you will probably continue with maintenance therapy. This can last from a minimum of 3 to 6 months to the long term, depending on the situation.

This will be done with the following:

Limb elevation. This will help reduce swelling and relieve pain.

Graduated compression arm sleeve. This is like a tight sock for your arm. Increases blood flow from the hand to the heart.

Medicines to thin the blood. Although these drugs do not actually “thin” the blood, they do slow the formation of new clots and prevent existing clots from growing.

Staying on blood thinners and wearing your compression sleeve will help prevent the existing clot from growing. It will also prevent new clots from forming.

By identifying and confirming the presence of deep vein thrombosis, the doctor may proceed with appropriate treatment using medications and opt for surgery.

Surgery is the last option, and the doctor will consider the severity of the symptoms, the age of the patient, their general health, and the location of the clot and the age of the patient.

Home treatment for blood clot in arm

There are things you can do yourself to treat and prevent blood clots. The following are some home remedies you can try today:

Maintain a proper diet : limiting the amount of fatty foods in the diet will help reduce the risk of cholesterol plaque formation in the blood vessels. A high fiber diet will help to achieve this.

By incorporating foods like vegetables and fruits, you can successfully increase your fiber intake.

Herbal tea – Yarrow leaf tea has been used to treat blood clots.

Take care of your medications – Taking any medication your doctor prescribes will help you stay healthy. It is also a good idea to inform them of any new herbal remedies you are using, as they can interfere with your current medication.

Move your arms – staying in one position can cause blood stasis. By moving your arms and being active, this can be prevented.

Change your lifestyle : Smoking is a major factor in the production of blood clots. Obesity can also contribute. Quitting smoking and losing weight will help reduce your risk.