Pulmonary Embolism: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

If a pulmonary embolism is detected too late, it can have devastating consequences. This article explains what can happen in the worst case scenario, what is meant by a pulmonary embolism and which symptoms indicate it.

What Is A Pulmonary Embolism?

A pulmonary embolism is a complete or partial blockage of one or more blood vessels. This blockage is usually caused by blood clots from the blood vessels in your body.

The insufficient blood flow also causes less oxygen to reach the blood. This leads to a lack of oxygen. In the worst case, a pulmonary embolism that is discovered too late can lead to death.

How A Pulmonary Embolism Manifests Itself

The severity of the symptoms depends on the size of the affected area of the lung. A small pulmonary embolism is usually associated with no to few symptoms. However, there is often sudden shortness of breath or chest pain.

Classic symptoms of pulmonary embolism:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Accelerated breathing.
  • Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • (Blood) cough.
  • Rales when breathing.
  • Sweating.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fainting spells.
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The severity of the symptoms depends on the size of the area that no longer receives proper blood flow. In this case, you may experience a circulatory collapse. Your blood pressure is low, but your heart still tries to pump enough blood to your body and beats faster.

Hands, arms, feet and legs are cold because they are the least supplied with blood. Your body now concentrates most on the vital organs. In addition, your lips may turn blue because of the lack of oxygen.

How Does A Pulmonary Embolism Occur?

Basically, a blocked artery causes an embolism to occur. A pulmonary embolism occurs when a vessel in the lungs that is responsible for supplying blood is partially or completely blocked. This blockage can have many different causes:

Pulmonary Embolism Due To Blood Clots

Most cases of pulmonary embolism are caused by a blood clot that has formed in a vein in the leg. This process is called leg vein thrombosis. This blood clot is then washed into the lungs by the bloodstream.

Why the clot detaches in the leg in the first place can have very different and, moreover, banal reasons. Getting up in the morning, pressing during a bowel movement or sudden physical exertion can cause the blood clot to travel to the lungs.

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The clot travels to the right ventricle of the heart and from there is pumped directly to the lungs. These factors can increase your risk of suffering from pulmonary embolism.

  • Smoking
  • Taking the pill.
  • Little exercise.
  • Cancer.
  • Surgery Obesity.
  • Prolonged air travel.
  • Heart and lung diseases.
  • Increasing age (from 50 to 60 years).
  • Thrombosis in the family.
  • Varicose veins.

Other Causes

In addition to a blood clot blocking a pulmonary artery, other causes can lead to pulmonary embolism.

Fat Embolism

In a fat embolism, fat is released from the bone marrow and travels through the vessels to the lungs, blocking them. This can happen particularly often after surgery, such as after implantation of a hip prosthesis or after a femur fracture.

Amniotic Fluid Embolism

An amniotic fluid embolism is a particularly dangerous complication during childbirth. Amniotic fluid can enter the bloodstream through a wound made by the detached placenta in the uterus.

The amniotic fluid eventually reaches the lungs via the bloodstream. The arteries in the lungs constrict and the cardiovascular system collapses.

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Air Embolism

An air embolism occurs when air gets into your veins. This is then transported via the bloodstream into the pulmonary arteries. In very few cases, this happens through venous access.

What Is The Treatment?

As you already know, certain symptoms such as sudden shortness of breath or severe chest pain can indicate a pulmonary embolism.

Your doctor will first ask you some questions to determine the severity of the condition. For example, he or she will ask you about the exact symptoms, how long they have lasted and how intense they are.

The preliminary interview is followed by a physical examination. Your doctor will listen to your heart rate or measure your blood pressure. Certain values in the blood can be helpful in making an appropriate diagnosis.

The oxygen and carbon dioxide content in the blood are also important clues when a pulmonary embolism is suspected. To treat a pulmonary embolism, the patient is first given painkillers and allowed oxygen supplementation. The further course of the disease depends on the severity.

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The severity is measured according to the condition of the circulation. If a pulmonary embolism is recognized or treated too late, it can also be fatal in the worst case.

Can The Disease Be Prevented?

As you learned earlier in this article, there are some risk factors that can promote pulmonary embolism. Severe disease is hard to avoid, but there are things you can do to prevent it:

  • Refrain from smoking.
  • Make sure you get enough exercise.
  • Wear compression stockings on long flights.
  • Move again as soon as possible after an operation.

How Bad Is A Pulmonary Embolism Really?

How dangerous a pulmonary embolism actually is depends on the extent of the disease. In the worst case, the disease can lead to death. However, this only happens if it is not detected early enough or is treated incorrectly.

If you are experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. The likelihood of getting a pulmonary embolism again is relatively high. It is therefore all the more important that you follow the tips to prevent the disease.

Sources

https://www.tk.de/techniker/gesundheit-und-medizin/behandlungen-und-medizin/venenerkrankungen-krampfadern-thrombosen/was-ist-eine-lungenembolie-2022444

https://www.netdoktor.de/krankheiten/lungenembolie/

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