Pulmonary embolism defines the sudden blockage of a pulmonary artery inside the lung by an embolus, typically from a blood clot that has an origin somewhere else in the body such as a deep vein thrombosis of the leg. When it comes to defining signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, the distinction in terminology is important. Signs are visible, while symptoms are expressed by what a patient feels.
The most common type of embolus traveling to the lungs is caused by a DVT that has become dislodged and travels upward until it reaches the lungs.
A number of causes for blood clots forming in the lower extremities include prolonged bed rest, immobility from long journeys, or an injury, typically caused by fractures damages surrounding vessels and tissues.
Signs of pulmonary embolism
Awareness of potential signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism enables (and encourages) individuals to seek medical attention. It should be noted that pulmonary embolisms are extremely serious situations and have the potential to cause death.
Among the most common signs – something that someone can observe, when it comes to a pulmonary embolism include:
- Shortness of breath – this shortness of breath or difficulty breathing typically comes on suddenly. Breathing may be rapid.
- Response to anxiety (a symptom) that is viewed by pacing or verbal expressions of worry.
- Responses to sudden, sharp pains in the chest, especially during inhalation. This pain is called pleuritic chest pain.
- Blue-tinged skin is an indication that oxygen deprivation is occurring. Bluish-tinged lips and fingertips are the first indication that the lungs are not oxygenating blood adequately.
- Individuals who experience recurring (small) pulmonary emboli may also display swollen ankles or legs, and experience generalized weakness.
Other indications of possible pulmonary embolism are expressed in symptoms such as complaints of lightheadedness. An individual may also complain about an erratic heart rate.
A pulmonary embolism can also cause a pulmonary infarction, or lung tissue death. In such cases, seek emergency help immediately. Pulmonary infarction can trigger bouts of coughing that bring up bloody sputum. This emergency also causes severe and sharp chest pain.
Prevention of pulmonary embolism
Surgical procedures, blunt force injury and trauma, obesity, and inactivity all increase the risk of blood clots. A pulmonary embolism occurs when such clots break off and travel to the blood vessels serving the lungs, the heart, or the brain. Each may cause severe damage and even death.
Prevention methodologies include adequate hydration, weight loss if needed, increased mobility (under physician supervision), and careful observance following any surgical procedure, long-term bed rest, or chronic illness. If you feel you are at risk for a pulmonary embolism, discuss signs, symptoms, diagnostics, and potential treatments with your physician.