Pulmonary embolism is a condition that occurs when an artery in your lung becomes blocked. In most cases, the blockage is caused by one or more blood clots that travel to your lungs from another part of your body.
Most clots originate in your legs, but they can also form in arm veins, the right side of your heart or even at the tip of a catheter placed in a vein. There are other rare causes of clots as well.
In most cases, a pulmonary embolism isn't fatal. Still, pulmonary embolism is a leading cause of hospital deaths and an increasing threat to passengers on long airplane flights. You can take measures to help prevent pulmonary embolism. And when pulmonary embolism does occur, treatment with anti-clotting medications can greatly reduce the risk of death.
Who usually gets a lung embolus?
Most patients with this condition already suffer from some other kind of disease - sometimes a heart condition.
Apart from that, some other situations may also increase the risk of an embolus in the lung.
- Elderly people, especially if they have to spend a lot of time in bed.
- Cancer increases the risk even more. However, most people who have pulmonary emboli do not have cancer.
- After an operation, especially in the abdomen.
- Some people have a family tendency to develop pulmonary emboli.
- Being overweight increases the risk even more.
- After a long journey without moving around, the blood can clot in the legs where it will form a deep vein thrombosis which doctors call a DVT. This is also sometimes called ‘Economy class syndrome’, and if you have a medical history of circulation problems or blood clots, and are planning a long journey on a plane or coach then discuss possible preventive measures with your doctor beforehand.
- Pelvic fractures and fractures of the lower limb.
- Pregnancy and childbirth.
Due to the risk of getting an embolus in the lung, it is important that elderly people don't lie in bed more than is absolutely necessary. Those who have undergone an operation, should try to walk around gently as soon possible, in accordance with their doctor's instructions.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism?
Major Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism (PE) include unexplained shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, coughing, or coughing up blood. An arrhythmia (a rapid or irregular heartbeat) also may indicate PE.
In some cases, the only signs and symptoms are related to deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These include swelling of the leg or along the vein in the leg, pain or tenderness in the leg, a feeling of increased warmth in the area of the leg that's swollen or tender, and red or discolored skin on the affected leg. See your doctor at once if you have any symptoms of PE or DVT.
It's possible to have a PE and not have any signs or symptoms of PE or DVT.
Other Signs and Symptoms
Sometimes people who have PE experience feelings of anxiety or dread, lightheadedness or fainting, rapid breathing, sweating, or an increased heart rate.
Pulmonary embolism is caused by a blocked artery in the lungs. The most common cause of such a blockage is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein in the leg and travels to the lungs, where it becomes lodged in a smaller lung artery.
Over 95% of blood clots that cause pulmonary embolism are formed in the upper deep leg veins.1 Clots can also form in the lower deep veins of the legs as well as in the deep veins of the arms or pelvis. However, only about 20% of blood clots in the veins of the calf will become larger and move into the upper leg or groin veins.
Occasionally blood clots develop in surface veins, but these clots rarely lead to pulmonary embolism.
In rare cases, pulmonary embolism may be caused by other substances, including:
- Small masses of infectious material.
- Fat, which can be released into the bloodstream after some types of bone fractures, surgery, trauma, or severe burns.
- Air bubbles from trauma, surgery, or medical procedures.
- Amniotic fluid from normal or complicated pregnancy and childbirth (very rare).
- Tumors caused by rapidly growing cancer cells.
- Foreign substances-such as a catheter that can break off during a medical procedure, talc, mercury, iodine, cotton, or the growth of tapeworm larvae.
Story about Leong Hong Tole, an acupuncturist and herbalist by THE STAR NEWSPAPER (Malaysia)