Complications of SCD: Blood Clots

At a glance

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited blood disorders associated with severe pain and complications that can affect the entire body. This page provides information on SCD and blood clots.

Blood clot in a calf.


Sickled red blood cells can make it more likely for the blood to clot, increasing a person's chance of developing a blood clot in a deep vein (deep vein thrombosis or DVT), commonly in the leg, thigh, pelvis, and arm. A DVT can break off and travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism or PE). A DVT and PE can cause serious illness, disability, and in some cases, death.

Signs and symptoms

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

People with a DVT may not experience symptoms, but the most common signs and symptoms of a DVT that occur in the affected part of the body include:

  • Swelling
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Redness of the skin

If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Pulmonary embolism (PE)

A PE can occur without any symptoms of a DVT. Signs and symptoms of PE can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Faster than normal or irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain or discomfort that worsens with a deep breath or cough
  • Cough or coughing up blood
  • Very low blood pressure, lightheadedness, or fainting

If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.