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pulmonary embolisms- Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment

Overview

Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in the lung's blood vessels caused by a deep vein clot that travels from the leg to the lung. The clots usually come from sources like a varicose vein, cancer tumor or other diseases of the blood. The symptoms of pulmonary embolism include coughing up blood, chest pain and difficulty breathing. There are also some signs that can be seen in an x-ray before symptoms develop such as shortness of breath and abnormal x-ray findings. Treatment for pulmonary embolism includes medication, long periods on bedrest and even surgery if needed.

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Symptoms of pulmonary embolism:

1. coughing up blood and then feeling winded
2. chest pain
3. shortness of breath
4. difficulty breathing
5. coughing peeing and feeling bloated
6. dizziness
7. easier to catch a cold
8. lower legs swelling
9. pale skin
10. fever
11. confusion
12. abdominal pain

When to see a doctor?

1. If you have traveled to an area with a high risk of pulmonary embolism such as an area with cancer, or you have recently flown to an area with a high risk of pulmonary embolism
2. If you have severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing blood and chest pain
3. Any time someone has problems breathing
4. Women who are pregnant or postpartum that have not had a baby
5. In any situation where the symptoms are considered to be unusual enough for a doctor to suspect pulmonary embolism

Causes:

1. Cancer
2. Deep vein thrombosis
3. Injured or fractured extremities
4. Pelvic varicose veins
5. Previous surgery on the legs
6. Pregnancy and post pregnancy period
7. Injuries to the lower extremities or other injuries that cause slow recovery of movement in the leg(s)
8. Obesity and other medical conditions that have been known to cause a risk of pulmonary embolism such as lupus, heart failure and sickle cell anemia
9. Family history of cancer, heart disease, leg or other surgeries
10. Family history of deep vein thrombosis

Risk factors:

1. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation
2. Traveling
3. Being immobile for long periods of time such as being in the hospital or traveling for long distances
4. Surgery that causes restriction of movement, swelling or injury to the legs
5. Pregnancy due to the body's production of estrogen which is known to increase a woman's chances at developing venous thromboembolism and pulmonary embolisms

Complications:

1. Pulmonary embolism is the leading cause of death in cases of deep vein thrombosis
2. It can cause lung tissue to die off and collapse
3. It can lead to blood clots in the brain, heart and elsewhere
4. If a pulmonary embolism does not get treated it can lead to death

Diagnosis:

1. Physical examination by a doctor to evaluate for signs of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
2. Chest x-ray to see whether the clots are in the main arteries or other areas causing worry about treatment
3. CT Scan or MRV scan of the lower legs to evaluate for risk factors and see if there is a blockage that could have caused symptoms

Treatment:

1. Medications: a doctor will typically check the following blood thinners to see whether they are a good match for the patient
- anticoagulants (blood thinners)
- Warfarin
- aspirin
- clopidogrel (Plavix)
2. Sometimes more than one medication will be needed to prevent future risks and help the patient recover from a pulmonary embolism.
2. Sometimes an operation is needed to remove the clot in order for us to prevent further symptoms and complications.
3. In some cases, surgery may be needed if there is a risk of complications or if symptoms continue after treatment with medications or other treatments such as bed rest.
4. In cases of a serious pulmonary embolism, blood thinners may have to be started to prevent further complications or if there are already complications due to an obstruction in the lungs.
5. If symptoms continue and there is a risk of death, treatment may be changed or stopped.

Prevention:

1. Wear support stockings for people who have risks for developing deep vein thrombosis
2. Avoid use of birth control that contain hormones especially estrogen
3. Eat a diet rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin E to help reduce the chance of getting a blood clot
4. Stay on the move and have proper walking habits such as raising ankles when walking and drinking water to stay hydrated for individuals who have risks for developing pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis
5. Avoid using tobacco products
6. Consult a doctor before using compression stockings or any medical device with risks of skin breaks due to risks at developing a blood clot even if you do not have family history and taking estrogen rich birth control or hormone treatments
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for informational purposes only.

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