Symptoms Of Pulmonary Embolism

Learn the symptoms of pulmonary embolism. An obstruction of the pulmonary artery that is usually caused by a blood clot is known as a pulmonary embolism.

An obstructbrion of the pulmonary artery that is usually caused by an embolus which in most cases is a blood clot is known as a pulmonary embolism. This blockage may also be caused by fat, bone marrow, tumor fragments, amniotic fluid or an air bubble that has traveled through the blood stream until it blocks a blood vessel causing a suddenly blockage in an artery in the lungs. Under normal circumstances unblocked arteries are able to send enough blood to the affected part of the lung so that tissue death is prevented. But, when a person has pre-existing lung disease or the obstruction is extremely large, there is often not a sufficient amount of blood supplied to prevent the tissues in the affected area from dying. When the body is able to break up smaller blood clots quickly the damage that occurs is kept to a minimum. But since larger clots take longer to disintegrate, more damage is done and they have even been known to cause sudden death.

Clotting in the veins, in some cases has no discernible cause. At other times there are predisposing conditions such as surgery, stroke, heart attack, obesity, hip or leg fractures, prolonged activity or a deficiency in blood clotting inhibitors that make the cause more obvious. In the majority of cases the most common type of pulmonary embolus is a blood clot. It will usually begin in the leg or pelvic vein, forming when the blood is flowing slowly or complete stopped as in the case where a person is in a stationery position for an extended length of time. When the person begins moving again the clot will break away. Occasionally such clots will begin in the veins of the arms or in the right side of the heart. When these clots break free they will usually travel through the blood stream into the lungs.

Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism may cause shortness of breath if the emboli is small. If an infarction does not develop this may be the only symptom. More often the person will experience rapid breathing, anxiety, restlessness and may appear to be having an anxiety attack. When the person attempts to breathe deeply they may feel a sharp pain in the chest that is known as pleuritic chest pain. In some cases the first symptoms may be fainting, convulsions or light headedness. If a pulmonary infarction is present the person may cough up blood stained spat, have fever and experience extensive chest pain when breathing. While the symptoms of pulmonary embolism tend to develop suddenly, those of pulmonary infarction tend to develop over a period of hours and last for several days. When the person has episodes of reoccurring symptoms caused by a small pulmonary emboli they may experience chronic shortness of breath, weakness and swelling of the legs or ankles that can develop progressively for weeks, months or even years.



To diagnose this condition a doctor may use chest x-rays, an electrocardiogram, a lung perfusion scan, a lung ventilation scan or a pulmonary arteriography. The most accurate means of diagnosing pulmonary embolism is by pulmonary arteriography but this test tends to be more uncomfortable than the other test and does pose some risk. The fatality factor concerning a pulmonary embolism can depend on the size of the embolus, the person general health and the number of pulmonary arteries that have been blocked.

This condition is an emergency. If not attended to immediately, death often follows.

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