Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in the pulmonary artery that supplies blood to the lungs. Usually due to blood clots. In most cases, blood clots are small and nonlethal, but can damage the lungs. But if large blood clots and stop the flow of blood to the lungs, then this is deadly. Immediate treatment will help save your life or reduce the risk of problems later.
Causes of Lung Embolism
In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by a blood clot coming from a broken leg or leg, then the blood clot is released and travels to the lungs following the blood flow. Blood clots in veins close to the skin are unlikely to cause problems. But having deep vein thrombosis can cause pulmonary embolism. More than 300,000 people experience deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism every year
Other things can block arteries, such as tumors, air bubbles, amniotic fluid, or fat that is released into the blood vessels when bones are damaged. But this rarely happens. Anything that makes you more likely to form blood clots can increase the risk of pulmonary embolism. Some people are born with blood clots that are too fast. Other things that can increase your risk include:
- Being inactive for a long time. This can occur when you have to stay in bed after surgery or have a serious illness, or when you sit for extended periods of time on a flight or road trip
- Surgery involves the legs, hips, stomach, or brain
- Some diseases, such as cancer, heart failure, stroke, or severe infections
- Pregnancy and childbirth (especially if you have a cesarean section)
- Taking birth control pills or hormone therapy.
Symptoms of Lung Embolism
Common pulmonary embolism symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath suddenly
- Sharp chest pain, which worsens when you cough or take a deep breath
- A cough that emits pink foamy ripples
- Increased or irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty catching breath, which can develop either suddenly or over time
- Breathe fast
- Cough, usually dry but maybe with blood, or blood and mucus
Severe symptoms require immediate emergency medical help. More severe cases can cause shock, loss of consciousness, heart failure and death.
Pulmonary embolism can cause other symptoms. For example, you might feel anxious or cold sweat, with your head floating, and your heart rate getting faster and faster. If you have the above symptoms, you need to see a doctor, especially if the symptoms suddenly occur and become instantaneous.
Diagnosis of Lung Embolism
You are also at higher risk for blood clots if you are an older adult, especially over the age of 70 or very overweight or obese. It can be difficult to diagnose pulmonary embolism, because the symptoms resemble other diseases such as heart attacks, panic, or pneumonia. The doctor will start a physical examination and give questions about past medical history and current symptoms. This will help your doctor decide if you are at high risk of pulmonary embolism.
Based on your risk, a blood test to look for blood clots or find the cause of symptoms needs to be done. Other general tests are CT scan, electrocardiogram (ECG), ultrasound and MRI.
Treating Lung Emboli
Doctors usually treat pulmonary embolism with a treatment called anticoagulant. These drugs are also often called blood thinners, but they don’t actually thin the blood. This medicine can prevent new blood clots from forming. Most people take this drug for several months. People who are at risk of developing blood clots will need this drug for the rest of their lives.
If the symptoms are severe and life threatening, the drug “thrombolytic” will also be used. This drug can get rid of blood clots quickly, but increases the risk of serious bleeding. Another option is surgery or minimally invasive procedures to take blood clots (embolectomy). Some people are unable to take anticoagulants, or clots are released after taking the medicine. To prevent future problems, they may have filters inserted into large veins that carry blood from the lower body to the heart. A vein cava filter helps keep blood clots from reaching the lungs.
If you have had pulmonary embolism, you are more likely to have it again. Blood thinners can help reduce your risk, but can increase the risk of bleeding. If your doctor prescribes blood thinners, make sure you understand how to take your medication safely.
You can reduce the risk of pulmonary embolism by doing things that help prevent blood clots in your legs.
- Avoid sitting for a long time. Get up and walk every hour or so, or flex your legs often
- Perform movements if possible after the operation
- When you travel, drink extra fluids. But avoid alcoholic drinks or caffeine
- Use compression if you are at high risk
- If you take blood thinners, take them according to the prescription and doctor’s advice.