An embolism is a medical condition where a blood clot blocks one of your arteries. When this happens in the lungs, it’s called a pulmonary embolism. The lungs play an essential role in delivering oxygen to the brain and heart, so the condition is very serious. Pulmonary embolism treatment is imperative for preventing lung damage, protecting vital organs and saving your life.
The Causes of Pulmonary Embolism
Normally, the body should break down any abnormal clots, but this doesn’t always happen. Certain activities and conditions raise the risk of developing a pulmonary embolism.
Leg or hip fractures
A family history of DVT or embolisms
Hereditary blood clotting disorders
Prior stroke or heart attack
The most common cause of pulmonary embolisms is a condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT leads to blood clots in veins of the legs or pelvis. And if you have varicose veins your chance of getting DVT is five times higher.
DVT can occur due to bone fractures, muscle tears, surgery or other types of deep injuries. Chemotherapy treatments and certain medications that cause increased clotting may also cause problems. Extended periods of sitting can also cause blood to pool in the legs and clot.
The Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism or DVT
The main symptom of pulmonary embolism is having a hard time breathing. You may notice sudden shortness of breath, or breathing can slowly get more complicated. Here are a few other symptoms to watch for:
Cough with pink mucus
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Sometimes chest pain gets worse when breathing or coughing. This pain can extend into the arms, shoulders or neck. If you notice pulmonary embolism symptoms, seek emergency medical assistance immediately.
Options for Pulmonary Embolism Treatments
One common option for pulmonary embolism treatment involves using anticoagulants to prevent clots from forming. A vein filter or minimally invasive catheter-based surgery may be recommended for patients who can’t use these medications.
With blood clots and DVT, prevention is often a vital part of avoiding complications. Patient-friendly procedures such as ultrasound vein mapping allow us to look for vein issues ahead of time.
Take Steps to Protect Yourself From a Pulmonary Embolism
What should you do if one or more risk factors apply to you? If it’s possible to reduce your risk with lifestyle changes such as exercising more regularly, go for it. Genetic factors aren’t something you can change, but you can stay alert for any warning signs.
There are many causes for a pulmonary embolism, but the most common is DVT. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, every year about 300,000 people experience a pulmonary embolism because of DVT. When a pulmonary embolism occurs, a piece of this clot breaks off the main clot and travels to the lungs.
The following are other causes of a pulmonary embolism, but they do not occur as frequently as DVT:
Fat deposits (these can be released when a bone is broken or when a limb is amputated)
Collagen and other tissues
The most common symptom of a pulmonary embolism is a sudden shortness in breath or difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include:
A sharp pain in the chest that gets worse if you cough or breathe deeply
A cough that produces mucus that is pink in color and has a foamy consistency
Since a pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening, it is important to see a vein doctor or emergency physician as soon as possible if you notice any of the above symptoms.
You can decrease your risk of a pulmonary embolism by avoiding smoking, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a normal weight for your height and age. Also, it’s important that when traveling long distances you take frequent breaks and walks to improve blood circulation and decrease your risk of clotting.
The most common treatments of a pulmonary embolism are anticoagulant medications such as warfarin (Coumadin), heparin and clopidogrel (Plavix). Other treatments – if the patient is unable to take anticoagulants – can include surgically removing the clots or using a catheter to insert a filter into the central vein of the body.
Long days of teaching exacerbated the burning and restless feelings in Kendra Brauer’s legs. The bruises and visible veins also provoked curious questions from her second-grade students if she wore anything shorter than full-length pants. Brauer first noticed a bruise on her leg when she was in her mid-20s. Slowly, more veins showed up and […]