Pulmonary embolism is a condition in which there is a blockage in the pulmonary artery. As a result, blood supply to the lungs is cut off. This is one of the most common forms of heart disease in the United States. In fact, around 1 in 1000 people suffer from this condition every year.
The word embolism comes from Greek ’embolos’, which means plug or stopper. Here, a blood clot forms and oxygen is prevented from reaching the tissues of the lungs. The clot forms in one part of the body and travels throughout the blood supply to another part, usually lungs. The vessel carrying oxygen and essential nutrients to the lungs is therefore blocked resulting in emergency condition or even death. Embolus is different from thrombus in that thrombus forms and remains in the same location.
As mentioned earlier, pulmonary embolism is due to embolus or blood clot that travels through the bloodstream and blocks the artery that is responsible for feeding the lungs. This clot may start anywhere, usually arms or legs, and is known as deep venous thrombosis or DVT. The clot then breaks free from the location it started and travels along the circulatory system towards the lungs. The vessels supplying oxygen to the lungs get blocked as a result. This blockage causes the blood to flow elsewhere away from the lungs depriving the organ of oxygen and essential nutrients. In the end, a section of the lungs is affected, or the entire lungs die. Sometimes, a pulmonary embolism is caused by embolus or clot from amniotic fluid, fat droplets, even small particles that enter the circulatory system.
Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism
Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include both obvious and hidden signs. Some of them are:
- A sharp or stabbing chest pain that becomes worse when breathing
- Irregularities in heartbeat
- Nausea, dizziness and morning sickness
- Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing as time passes
More severe case of this condition accompanies symptoms such as unconsciousness, cardiac arrest, shock and death.
Treatment for Pulmonary Embolism
Treatments for pulmonary embolism are mainly focused on
- Stopping the clot from getting bigger
- Removing existing clot from the area it is formed
- And preventing new clots from forming
The first aid treatment for pulmonary embolism include treating symptoms such as shock and attack and making sure oxygen is adequate in the targeted organs. Anticoagulant medication is administered to patients to thin the blood and prevent clotting in the future. Clot busting drugs are used although some patients may experience excessive bleeding with this drug. In case of low blood pressure, appropriate measure to increase the pressure is deployed. In almost all cases, patients are prescribed medication and pulmonary embolism therapy for a long period of time, usually more than three months. Most patients recover from this condition during the first treatment course.
There are many things someone suffering from pulmonary embolism can do in order to reduce their risk and recover quickly. Compressing where the clot is present, increasing pressure, wearing gloves, sleeves and boots specially designed for it are some of them. Other ways to reduce risk include healthy diet, exercise and exposure to sunlight on a regular basis.