Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a life-threatening medical emergency in which one or more arteries in the lungs are blocked by a clot. It can occur without any symptoms and, if left untreated, can be fatal. Therefore, recognizing the signs and seeking immediate medical attention can potentially save your life! In this article, we will discuss the first signs of pulmonary embolism to pay more attention and react before it is too late.
What causes a pulmonary embolism?
Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a blood clot, usually from the legs or hips, travels to the lungs and lodges in one of the pulmonary arteries. It is often caused by deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition that involves the formation of a blood clot in an artery or vein in the lower parts of the body. Other possible causes include:
- The contraceptive pill.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women or those who gave birth less than six weeks ago.
- The cancer.
- Long periods of immobility due to serious injury or illness (such as after a stroke).
- Hereditary diseases that increase the risk of blood clots (thrombophilia).
- Certain medications.
- In some cases, the reason a person developed PE is unclear.
Here are some signs indicating a pulmonary embolism.
shortness of breath:
Shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms associated with pulmonary embolism. It occurs when there is a blockage in one or more arteries in the lungs, which leads to decreased oxygen levels and reduced airflow to the lungs. Symptoms often begin suddenly and may be accompanied by rapid heartbeat, tightness in the chest, sweating, and inability to catch your breath.
Chest pain is another symptom of pulmonary embolism. It can manifest as a sharp or throbbing sensation that gets worse when you breathe deeply, cough, or move. Chest pain associated with pulmonary embolism is due to obstruction of blood flow to the lungs, which can lead to strain on the heart muscle due to increased pressure.
Cough is another common symptom of pulmonary embolism, as it often accompanies difficulty in breathing. A dry cough may be accompanied by shortness of breath and chest pain, as well as coughing up blood (hemoptysis). This type of cough usually gets worse over time and with exertion or activity.
Anxiety can occur due to the lack of oxygen supply to the brain caused by a pulmonary embolism. People may feel a sense of panic or fear during these episodes, which can make their breathing even worse. The most common symptoms are tremors, rapid heartbeat, sweating and dizziness.
People affected by pulmonary embolism may experience excessive fatigue as their body struggles to supply enough oxygen to all of its systems due to obstruction of blood flow to the lungs caused by the clots. This lack of oxygen can weaken and fatigue muscles and organs throughout the body, directly leading to general exhaustion.
Dizziness is another symptom associated with pulmonary embolism that occurs due to a decrease in oxygen levels in the bloodstream of the body. It is usually noticeable early in the episode, but can sometimes intensify after physical activity or exercise.
Palpitations are also an indication of pulmonary embolism and involve the feeling that your heart is beating too fast or irregularly, as if extra beats have been added to each cycle or the pauses between beats are longer than what is expected. should normally be for healthy individuals. Hence the need for immediate medical attention if palpitations were noticed at any point in their daily routine.
Bluish discoloration of the skin (cyanosis):
A bluish discoloration of the skin, otherwise known as cyanosis, can be a sign of a pulmonary embolism. This is caused by low oxygen levels in the blood and can present in different forms depending on its severity. Symptoms include central cyanosis, peripheral cyanosis, and even acrocyanosis. Central cyanosis affects large areas of the skin while peripheral cyanosis mainly affects the hands and feet. Acrocyanosis manifests as a thick blue tint on the extremities of the skin, such as the nose and ears. Therefore, any bluish discoloration appearing over a small or large area should not be ignored as it may indicate a pulmonary embolism and should seek medical advice.