Recently the sister of a friend of mine suffered from a pulmonary embolism (PE) which reminded me that two of my siblings had pulmonary embolisms as well. The lack of knowledge of just what pulmonary embolisms (PEs) are is astonishing. I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion.
What is a Pulmonary embolism? Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from deep veins in the legs or, rarely, from veins in other parts of the body (deep vein thrombosis). Because the clots block blood flow to the lungs, pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. However, prompt treatment greatly reduces the risk of death. Taking measures to prevent blood clots in your legs will help protect you against pulmonary embolism.
Symptoms of a Pulmonary Embolism; symptoms can vary greatly, depending on how much of your lung is involved, the size of the clots, and whether you have underlying lung or heart disease.
Common signs and symptoms include:
In many cases, multiple clots are involved in pulmonary embolism. The portions of the lung served by each blocked artery are robbed of blood and may die. This is known as pulmonary infarction. This makes it more difficult for your lungs to provide oxygen to the rest of your body.
Occasionally, blockages in the blood vessels are caused by substances other than blood clots, such as:
In addition, some medical conditions and treatments put you at risk, such as:
In rare cases, small emboli occur frequently and develop over time, resulting in chronic pulmonary hypertension, also known as chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension.
Prevention: Preventing clots in the deep veins in your legs (deep vein thrombosis) will help prevent pulmonary embolism. For this reason, most hospitals are aggressive about taking measures to prevent blood clots, including:
Your doctor might suggest the following to help prevent blood clots during travel: