4 Major Symptoms Of Pulmonary Embolism And Tips To Reduce The Risk Of Developing It

Date December 12, 2017

Blood clots can form in any blood vessel in your body. They can remain where they formed (these are called thrombi) or can break off and travel to another body part or organ and create a blockage. When such blood clot gets to your lungs, it leads to pulmonary embolism.

What is pulmonary embolism and how many people are affected by it?

Pulmonary embolism is a dangerous condition in which an artery in your lungs becomes blocked. The most common cause of a blockage is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein in your leg or other body part (deep vein thrombosis). It travels to the lungs and lodges in an artery there. Sometimes, an air bubble, part of tumor, collagen or other tissue, or fat from bone marrow from a broken bone can block an artery in the lungs.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), every year, 300,000 to 600,000 people in the United States are affected by pulmonary embolism and DVT. Pulmonary embolism takes the lives of about a third of those affected by it. This is why it’s important to learn how to recognize the symptoms of pulmonary embolism and get help as soon as possible, receive prompt treatment, lower the risk of complications, and improve the chances of survival.

What are the symptoms of pulmonary embolism?

According to the National Health Service (UK), four main symptoms of pulmonary embolism include the following:

  • shortness of breath, which usually comes on suddenly but may also develop gradually;
  • chest pain – a sharp pain which is present when you’re at rest and gets worse when you inhale, cough, or do certain activities;
  • coughing – is dry in most cases, but you also may cough up blood or bloody mucus;
  • feeling faint, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.

Other symptoms of pulmonary embolism may include:

  • rapid heartbeat;
  • irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia);
  • increased perspiration;
  • bluish or discolored skin (cyanosis);
  • fever;
  • leg swelling, especially below the knee.

What factors increase the risk of pulmonary embolism?

Certain factors can make you more likely to develop pulmonary embolism. These factors include:

  • deep vein thrombosis;
  • cancer and cancer treatments;
  • having had a surgery;
  • fractures of the pelvis or leg bones;
  • prolonged bed rest;
  • being unable to move on a long trip;
  • being overweight or obese;
  • high blood pressure;
  • estrogen or testosterone replacement therapy;
  • pregnancy and childbirth.
  • certain inherited clotting disorders, such as Factor V Leiden.

How can you lower the risk of pulmonary embolism?

There are some things you can do to lower your risk of blood clots and pulmonary embolism. They include:

  • making healthier lifestyle choices, such as giving up smoking and eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in unhealthy fats;
  • staying as active as you can;
  • taking blood-thinners as prescribed by your doctor;
  • moving and massaging your lower legs if you have to stay seated during a long trip.

Pulmonary embolism isn’t always preventable. But learning about the symptoms of this dangerous condition and taking measures to lower you risk can help you know when it’s time to get help and improve your chances of the best possible outcome.

Source: NHLBI, NHS UK, Mayo Clinic, WebMD, MedScape, HealthLine

READ ALSO: How To Recognize A Blood Clot: 6 Tell-Tale Symptoms

This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.