What Is a Pulmonary Embolism, And How Can You Treat It?

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that gets trapped in the lung. This health disorder is very serious and can be life-threatening. However, if the blood clot is caught early, it can be treated. There are several ways it can be treated such as with blood thinner, medicine to dissolve the clot, or a catheter can be used to remove it. Pulmonary embolism patients need special care, guidance and attention from their doctors.

How to prevent a pulmonary embolism?

Keep in mind; there are several ways to lower your chances of a pulmonary embolism such as blood thinners and exercise. Blood thinners help keep your blood from forming clots. Blood thinners are also given when a person has been hospitalized after a stroke, heart attack or if they have complications from cancer.

Exercise is the easiest and most important; especially if you have been in the hospital for a long time. Exercise will keep the blood in your legs flowing. Stretching during long trips also helps. Lifestyle changes can also help such as maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. It is also important that you talk with your doctor about your risk for blood clots. Most importantly, if you smoke, end the habit.

What causes a pulmonary embolism?

In most cases a pulmonary embolism is caused by deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Deep vein thrombosis is a condition in which blood clots form and block the flow of blood through the veins inside the body. Sometimes people who undergo a surgery or chemotherapy for cancer can also cause this condition, as they are usually laying down for long periods of time.

An injury to your bones or tears in your muscles can cause internal bleeding that leads to a blood clot forming in your veins. Inactivity and certain medical conditions can also increase the chances of a blood clot forming and leading to an embolism.

Risk factors for a pulmonary embolism

It is important to note; there are several risk factors that increase your risk for a pulmonary embolism such as cancer, genetics, major surgery, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, if you are over 60 years old and if you are taking estrogen or testosterone. If you have one or more of the above risk factors, talk with your doctor soon. He or she, by listening to your symptoms, can prescribe medication, perform tests and then decide if other treatment methods are needed. When sharing with your doctor how you feel, be sure to tell him exactly how you feel.

What are the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism?

How large the clot is and where it lodges in the lung will determine the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath, anxiety, clammy skin, chest pain, an irregular or rapid heartbeat, fever, spitting up blood or having a weak pulse.

How is this health condition diagnosed?

It is important to note that this health disorder can be difficult to diagnose. However, when you visit your doctor, he or she will ask about your symptoms and ask about your health. In most cases, your doctor will perform several tests to find out what is causing your symptoms. Examples of tests your doctor may perform are a chest x-ray, an ECG, an MRI or a CT scan.

Other tests that are given are a pulmonary angiography, a duplex veinous ultrasound and a venography.

Treatments for a pulmonary embolism

Treatment for this disorder is given while you are in the hospital. Blood thinners are the most common treatment for a pulmonary embolism. They prevent the blood clots from becoming bigger and they help stop new clots from forming. Blood thinners do not dissolve blood clots. Our bodies do that naturally over time. Examples of blood thinners are Jantoven and Heparin. One side effect of blood thinners is the potential for internal bleeding.

If the clot is considered life threatening, a doctor may use various forms of thrombolytic drugs. Thrombolytic drugs break up the clots that can cause severe symptoms; however, they can also lead to sudden internal bleeding.

A catheter is another emergency treatment that can be used for this condition. A doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube into a vein in your thigh or arm. The tube will then be positioned into your lung. While in the lung the doctor will use the tube to remove the clot.

Other treatments for a blood clot in the lung are an Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) filter, compression stockings and surgery. Surgery is rarely used to remove a clot from the lung. Compression stockings work well for some and are a preferred method since they are less invasive than surgery. Compression stockings go up to your knee and keep pressure on your legs which in turn prevents the blood from clotting.

To conclude, a pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that needs to be addressed immediately. Talk with your doctor soon and find out more about this dangerous health condition and what treatment options work for you.

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