What are the Signs & Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism?
A pulmonary embolism occurs when a critical blood vessel in the lungs experiences sudden blockage, usually by way of a blood clot that has traveled from the legs. A professional diagnosis is absolutely necessary to confirm a pulmonary embolism, since many of the primary symptoms overlap with other conditions, such as heart attacks and pneumonia. Generally, pulmonary embolisms are not life-threatening. However, neglecting to treat the problem is likely to cause lasting damage to the lungs.
You can most readily recognize a pulmonary embolism by chest pain, which may become sharp and more painful when inhaling. Pulmonary embolism symptoms back pain are not uncommon, either. Asthma attacks share a trademark of pulmonary embolism rapid heart rate and breathing. Severe anxiety, unusual perspiration, and heart palpitations may also be experienced, but perhaps most telling of all is the coughing up of pink, foamy mucus.
As previously stated, blood clots responsible for pulmonary embolisms most usually derive from a vein deep in the leg. This condition is known as deep vein thrombosis, and recognizing deep vein thrombosis symptoms beforehand can help you identify a pulmonary embolism. The symptoms are often slight or not present at all, but they include swelling, tenderness, and unusual warmth in the calf, foot, or leg areas.
Deep vein thrombosis is most often a result of extreme inactivity, whether following a surgical recovery or during extensive sedentary travel. Regularly exercising and stretching leg muscles can prevent blood clotting in deep veins, which in turn will reduce risk of a pulmonary embolism. If you are recovering from a recent surgery, consider consulting with a physical therapist, who can assist you with remaining active in ways that are safe and doable for you.
Advanced medical testing will be required to pinpoint the exact cause of these symptoms. Your doctor may find it necessary to run any number of imaging examinations, including CT, MRI, and ultrasound scans. A visual representation of the clotted area makes it possible to determine the severity and nature of the embolism. Some clots, for example, may be caused by tumor growth or loosened fat. These cases will not be affected by a blood thinning treatment, which would otherwise be the treatment of choice.
As with most ailments, certain aspects of health can put a person higher at risk for a pulmonary embolism. High-risk individuals can benefit from medications and lifestyle changes that help to prevent blood clots. Speak with a doctor about preventative measures if you are:
- Older then seventy years of age
- Pregnant, or have had a child
- Taking birth control
- Undergoing hormone therapy
- Recovering from a recent surgery
While pulmonary embolisms are generally not fatal in nature, untreated cases can progress to a severity that can be life-threatening. If you or a loved one experience sudden chest pain and rapid pulse, seek medical attention for an accurate diagnosis. Pulmonary embolisms are difficult to diagnose, but they are most usually easy to treat.