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Pulmonary Embolism: What is it, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Pulmonary Embolism: What is it, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Pulmonary embolism is a disease that occurs when a blood clot creates a blockage in the arteries in the lungs. Pulmonary embolism, medically known as pulmonary embolism, is among the cardiovascular diseases. The clot usually occurs in a vein in the leg area. However, clot formation may also occur in a vein in another part of the body. In this way, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs as a result of a blood clot forming in one or more deep veins in the body. Obstruction of blood flow to the lungs as a result of one or more clots can be life-threatening. However, early diagnosis and prompt treatment of pulmonary embolism can help reduce the risks that may occur as a result of the disease.

Pulmonary embolism is a disease that occurs when a blood clot creates a blockage in the arteries in the lungs. Pulmonary embolism, medically known as pulmonary embolism, is among the cardiovascular diseases. The clot usually occurs in a vein in the leg area. However, clot formation may also occur in a vein in another part of the body. In this way, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs as a result of a blood clot forming in one or more deep veins in the body.

Obstruction of blood flow to the lungs as a result of one or more clots can be life-threatening. However, early diagnosis and prompt treatment of pulmonary embolism can help reduce the risks that may occur as a result of the disease.

Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms

Multiple symptoms may occur as a result of pulmonary embolism. Some of the symptoms that occur as a result of pulmonary embolism are as follows:

Shortness of breath: Sudden shortness of breath may occur as a result of pulmonary embolism. Shortness of breath that does not improve even at rest becomes worse during physical activity. It may also get worse.

Chest Pain: Severe chest pain may occur as a result of pulmonary embolism. The pain may be felt more with deep breathing.

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Fainting: Pulmonary embolism can cause sudden decreases in heart rate or blood pressure. As a result of this situation, fainting, also known as syncope, may occur.

In addition to such situations that are frequently encountered as a result of pulmonary embolism, some symptoms may also indicate pulmonary embolism. Some of these symptoms are as follows:

  • A cough that may contain bloody mucus
  • Increase in heart rate,
  • Sudden dizziness,
  • Excessive sweating without any reason,
  • High fever,
  • Pain or swelling, usually in the back of the lower leg
  • Moist or discolored skin, called cyanosis.

Pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. For this reason, it is important to consult a healthcare provider if you experience conditions such as unexplained shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting.

Why Does Pulmonary Embolism Occur?

A pulmonary embolism can occur when a blood clot becomes lodged in an artery in the lungs, blocking blood flow. Blood clots commonly form in the deep veins of the legs, a condition also known as deep vein thrombosis.

Pulmonary Embolism Risk Factors

Some conditions may increase the likelihood of a pulmonary embolism. Some of such situations are as follows:

Genetic Factors: A pulmonary embolism may be more likely to occur if any of your blood relatives have had a venous blood clot or pulmonary embolism in the past.

Heart disease: Some diseases, such as heart failure, can cause clots to form in the lungs.

Operation: Blood clotting disorders may occur as a result of some surgeries. Therefore, anticoagulant medications may be given before and after surgery.

Staying Sedentary for a Long Time: Staying bedridden for a long time or traveling may cause the legs to become immobile and cause blood clots to form.

To smoke: Smoking can negatively affect cardiovascular health and increase the risk of blood clots.

Being Overweight: Being overweight can cause the amount of fat in the body to increase. Having more fat in the body than the required range can negatively affect vascular health and cause blood clots.

Pregnancy: During pregnancy, pressure may occur on the veins in the pelvis. As a result of this situation, blood return from the legs to the body may slow down. A blood clot may occur as a result of slowing blood flow.

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Such factors may pose a risk for pulmonary embolism.

Complications that may occur as a result of pulmonary embolism

As a result of the blockage in the arteries in the lungs, the heart may have to work harder to ensure blood flow in these vessels. This can cause increased blood pressure and weakening of the heart. Pulmonary hypertension may occur as a result of increased blood pressure.

Can Pulmonary Embolism Be Prevented?

Preventing clots from forming in the deep veins in the legs can help prevent pulmonary embolism. Some of the precautions that can be taken to prevent pulmonary embolism are as follows:

Blood Thinning (Anticoagulant) Drug Use: Blood clotting problems may occur as a result of some surgeries. Therefore, anticoagulant medication may be given before and after surgery. Use of anticoagulant medication can help prevent blood clots.

Lifting Legs High: Elevating the legs occasionally and keeping them above heart level for a while can help prevent blood clots.

Physical Activity: Doing regular physical activity in routine life can contribute to preventing blood clot formation.

Consuming Plenty of Liquid: Dehydration may occur as a result of not having enough water in the body. Dehydration can cause the development of blood clots. Consuming adequate amounts of water can help prevent dehydration.

Moving at regular intervals during journeys: Not being able to move the feet as a result of long journeys can cause pulmonary embolism. During trips, moving the ankles in a circular motion and lifting the toes up and down every fifteen to thirty minutes can help prevent pulmonary embolism from occurring.

How is Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosed?

A physical examination by a doctor can help diagnose pulmonary embolism. However, some tests may contribute to the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism. Some methods used to diagnose pulmonary embolism are as follows:

Blood Tests: A blood clot in the veins of the lungs can cause low blood oxygen levels. Blood tests can measure the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

Chest X-ray: This method of imaging the lungs can help diagnose pulmonary embolism.

Ultrasound: This test can be used to examine the veins in the thigh, knee and calf. A wand-shaped device called a transducer is moved over the skin to direct sound waves to the vessels being tested. These waves are then reflected back to the transducer to create a moving image on the computer. The absence of clots in the resulting images reduces the possibility of deep vein thrombosis.

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CT Pulmonary Angiography: CT pulmonary angiography creates three-dimensional images that can show changes in the vessels in the lungs, such as pulmonary embolism. The resulting images can help diagnose pulmonary embolism.

Magnetic Resonance (MR): MRI, which allows detailed imaging of the lungs, can help diagnose pulmonary embolism.

Using such methods can help diagnose pulmonary embolism.

Pulmonary Embolism Treatment

The treatment for pulmonary embolism aims to prevent the existing blood clot from growing and preventing new clots from forming. Some of the treatment methods used in pulmonary embolism are as follows:

Drug Use

Certain medications may be prescribed by the doctor to treat pulmonary embolism. Some of the drug treatments for pulmonary embolism are as follows:

Blood Thinning Drugs: Blood-thinning medications called anticoagulants work to break up clots that form in the body, helping to prevent existing clots from growing and new clots from forming.

Anticoagulant Drugs: In some cases, for clots that do not dissolve on their own, thrombolytics (clot-dissolving medications) given intravenously can help dissolve clots quickly.

Such medications used in the treatment of pulmonary embolism may cause unwanted side effects. Therefore, it is very important that the medications used to treat pulmonary embolism are under the supervision of a doctor.

Surgical Procedures

If a life-threatening clot occurs in the lung, the doctor can remove the clot with the help of a thin and flexible catheter passed through the blood vessels. However, for people who cannot take anticoagulant medications or who have blood clots despite the use of anticoagulants, filtering can be applied to the veins. Vascular filtering is a method that involves placing a filter in the body’s main vein that runs from the legs to the right side of the heart. The applied filter can help prevent clots from passing to the lungs.

Pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening if not treated early. Therefore, it is very important to consult a healthcare institution if one or more of the symptoms indicating pulmonary embolism are experienced at the same time.

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