Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism is a sudden obstruction to an artery in the lung, typically by a blood clot which has migrated to the lung from a leg. This condition affects more than 300,000 people each year in the United States.

When small, the clots can cause lung damage. Large clots can prevent circulation of blood to the lungs, which is fatal. Seeking immediate medical attention can mean the difference between life and death.

Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms

Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include:

  • Sharp pain in the chest, which intensifies with a deep breath, or cough
  • Coughing up pink, foamy mucus
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Heart palpitations
  • Faintness or lightheadedness
  • Anxiety

Pulmonary Embolism Risk Factors

Risk factors for pulmonary embolism include:

  • Inactivity, like being bedridden or sitting on long car or plane rides
  • Medication, including hormone therapy and contraceptive pills
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Being over 70 years of age
  • Certain medical conditions, like stroke, cancer or congestive heart failure
  • Recent surgery involving the abdomen, brain, hips and legs
  • Family history of the condition
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