A pulmonary embolism (or PE) is a serious medical condition where a blood clot blocks one of your lungs. All the symptoms can range from mild to severe and are life-threatening. Common symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and fever. Although not all people who experience these symptoms will develop a PE, it is important to see a pulmonary doctor if they persist. You must recognize the warning signs at the initial stage and seek medical attention if you have any. To avoid serious health problems, early diagnosis and treatment are key.
What is Pulmonary Embolism?
Your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to all parts of your body. The blood is oxygenated in the lungs and then back to your heart. Blood flows from your heart to your lung via your artery through your pulmonary arterial.
A pulmonary embolism is a physical condition in which a blood clot becomes lodged in an artery that runs from the heart to your lungs. The blood clot can block normal blood flow.
A pulmonary embolism is dangerous if the clot is large or many smaller clots block the artery and can lead to serious health problems such as damage to your lungs or low blood oxygen levels. You may also experience damage to other organs due to the lack of oxygen.
A deep vein usually causes pulmonary embolisms in the legs. This is called deep vein thrombosis by doctors. This happens when blood cannot flow freely through your legs due to prolonged standing, such as during long flights or drives. This could also occur if you are on bed rest following surgery or an illness.
The signs of pulmonary embolism can vary depending on the extent of your lung involvement, the size, and type of clots, as well as whether you have any underlying heart or lung disease.
Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Shortness or no breath. This condition is usually sudden and often worsens with exertion.
- Heart attack symptoms. It is usually felt when you inhale deeply. This can often stop you from taking deep, satisfying breaths. It can also feel when you cough, bend or stoop.
- A cough. Bloody or blood-streaked vomit.
You may also experience the following symptoms and signs when you have pulmonary embolism:
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Excessive sweating
- Deep vein thrombosis that causes leg pain, swelling, or both.
- Cyanosis: Clammy skin or discolored skin
Pulmonary embolism is when a clump, usually a blood clot or a clump, gets stuck in an artery in your lungs. This is known as deep vein bleeding (DVT), and it occurs most often in the deep veins in your legs.
Multiple clots can be involved in pulmonary embolism. Each blocked artery may cause blood loss and lead to the death of portions of the lung. This makes it harder for your lungs and other organs to supply oxygen. This is called pulmonary infarction.
Sometimes, blood clots can cause blockages in blood vessels.
- Fat from the marrow is a long broken bone
- A portion of a tumor
- Air bubbles
How to Prevent Pulmonary Embolism
To prevent a PE, you should stop blood vessels from becoming clots. This is especially true in case you have been on bed rest for a serious illness or surgery or if your flight was long.
Here are some things you can do to lower your risk of developing dangerous blood clots.
Doctors call these anticoagulants. These anticoagulants prevent blood clots from forming. Your doctor may prescribe them while you are in hospital for surgery. Your doctor might ask you to continue taking them after you return home.
In case you have had a stroke, heart attack, or suffer from cancer complications, your doctor may recommend blood thinners.
These socks are long and tighten your legs. This extra pressure allows blood to flow through your legs and veins. Your doctor may recommend for you wear them for a time after surgery.
When you’re recovering from a lengthy stay in the hospital, or if you have an illness that has kept you in bed too long, get out of bed and start walking. This will keep your blood flowing and prevent it from pooling.
Stretching on trips
Walking around on long flights is a good idea. You can stand if you are unable to do so. Flex your ankles and pull your toes towards you.
Another stretch that you can do while sitting is:
- With one hand, raise your leg towards your chest.
- The other hand should hold the bottom of the leg.
- For 15 seconds, keep this position and then move on to the next leg.
- This can be done up to 10 times an hour.
You can stretch your legs every hour if you drive a long distance.
To stay hydrated, you should also drink more fluids.
You can also take the following steps:
- Keep a healthy weight
- Talk to your doctor if you plan to use hormones such as birth control or replacement therapy.
- You should consult your doctor if and when you have any other health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease.
- Talk to your doctor if there are any family histories of blood clots, kidney disease, or other autoimmune diseases.
- Stop smoking.
Your doctor may recommend taking thrombolytics, which are drugs to break down the clot. Although rare, it may need to be removed or broken up by surgery.
How to Diagnose Pulmonary Embolism
Pulmonary embolism is difficult to diagnose. It is crucial to see your doctor as soon as you feel any symptoms. Your doctor will likely perform a physical exam. They may also ask about your personal history and any risk factors. To determine which diagnosis is most likely to match your symptoms, they may perform blood tests or imaging studies. Your doctor may examine your legs to look for signs of a deep vessel clot, swelling, tenderness, reddening, and warmth in the area. Your heart and lungs will be examined, and your blood pressure checked.
The most common tests that can be ordered are:
- CTPA, or computed tomographic imaging, is a particular X-ray used to diagnose PE. It uses contrast to examine blood vessels.
- D-Dimer blood tests can be used to determine the level of CO2 or oxygen in your blood.
- A chest X-ray to check your heart and lungs
- To determine which parts of your lungs receive blood flow and airflow, perform a Pulmonary V/Q scan.
- Ultrasound of the legs for measuring blood flow speed
- Spiral CT scan that can detect abnormalities in the arteries
- Pulmonary angiography is used to determine the presence of blood clots within the lungs.
- An electrocardiogram is used to measure heart activity.
- MRI is reserved for pregnant women or individuals who cannot tolerate contrast in other imaging tests.
If you are experiencing any of the warning symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, it is important to seek medical attention right away. The team at Hunterdon Pulmonary & Sleep Associates in Flemington, New Jersey, can help diagnose and treat your condition. Don’t wait – call us today at 908-237-1560.