What You Need to Know About Pulmonary Embolism
A pulmonary embolism begins when your blood travels from the heart to the lungs via the pulmonary artery. The lungs supply your blood with oxygen before it travels back to the heart, where the cardiac environment releases the oxygen-inspired blood throughout your body.
If there is a blockage of sorts in the pulmonary artery, this is the PE. The blood supply is halted and backed up, causing damage to the lungs and quickly reducing the oxygen in the body. Needless to say, if a PE goes undiagnosed, it becomes fatal.
There are always symptoms associated with many health issues, no matter how suddenly it may appear. For a pulmonary embolism, the symptoms consist of the following:
- Back pain
- Chest pains
- Coughing up blood
- Lips or nails turn blue
- Profuse sweating
- Shortness of breath
Who Is at Risk
Unfortunately, adults and young people can develop a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism occurs as a result of your lifestyle, family history, and health problems. Common lifestyle events that can bring on a PE are as follows:
- If you live a sedentary life. Especially sitting each day without moving around, then a blood clot can form commonly in the legs, which then travels to the lungs. Inactive doesn’t mean you are lazy; it could mean that if you are recovering from an illness like heart disease, a stroke, or a surgical procedure and you become immobile for a period of time.
- Blood clots can also be an inherited condition. Other prone conditions for blood clots include pregnancy, you are carrying too much weight, childbirth, cancer, or diabetic diagnosis, or you are required to take hormone replacement therapy.
- Other risks include smoking, drug abuse, and a rare fungal infection.
- Oral anticoagulants commonly referred to as blood thinners are one solution for a pulmonary embolism. New blood thinners as a medicine for PE work quickly to prevent new clots from forming.
- Thrombolytics or clot dissolvers are medications that are injected into a vein where a blood clot has been identified.
- Catheter-based solutions are long thin tubes that are threaded through the veins to break up clots. Different catheter procedures depend on the severity of the blood clot. A vein filter is put into the “inferior vena cava,” which is the main vein in the human body that runs from the legs to the heart’s right side. Using a catheter filter keeps a blood clot from reaching the lungs.
- An embolectomy is a surgical procedure where a surgeon enters the chest cavity due to the onset of a massive PE attack.
- Prescription compression socks or support hose helps to keep pressure on the legs to prevent clots or pooling of the blood. These specialized socks are worn and become tighter toward the ankle to help the muscles in the leg to keep the blood moving upward.
Just a note of interest – a PE is not always a death sentence. If you experience any of the above symptoms, please make an emergency appointment so that your doctor can run tests to determine if you have a pulmonary embolism.