there are special types of arteries in our body known as the pulmonary arteries. when a blockage forms in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs, this is known as pulmonary embolism. a pulmonary embolism is generally caused when a blood clot formed in your deep veins travels from there to the lungs. these deep veins are generally in the legs. in rare cases, the deep veins are in other parts of the body. these blood clots in deep veins are known as deep vein thrombosis.
pulmonary embolism can become life-threatening because the blood clots block the blood flow to your lungs. if the treatment for this is very prompt, then the risk is greatly reduced. also, if you take proper measures to prevent blood clots from developing in your legs, then the risk of getting pulmonary embolism decreases.
symptoms of the disease
there are several varied symbols of pulmonary embolism. the symptoms vary according to the portion of your lung involved. it also depends on whether the patient already has any underlying disease of the heart and the lung.
some common signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism:-
you might experience sudden shortness of breath which will get worse if you exert yourself.
you might experience chest pain which might feel as if you are having a heart attack. this pain is always very sharp and will be felt if you breathe in deeply. the pain might stop you from breathing in too deeply. if you cough, stoop or bend, the pain will be felt properly.
when you cough, you might produce blood-streaked or bloody sputum.
severe palpitations or irregular heartbeat. dizziness or light-headedness.
mild or high fever
swelling and pain in the leg, especially in the calf. this is caused by deep vein thrombosis.
risk factors related to the disease
most of the time, almost about 90% of the time, pulmonary embolism arises from proximal leg deep vein thrombosis or pelvic vein thrombosis.
let us take a look at a few factors which might increase your risk of pe:-
inactivity or immobility for very long periods of time.
certain inherited conditions such as factor v leiden and other blood clotting disorders are at an increased risk of pe.
anyone who has surgery or suffer from a broken bone. the risk is greater following the weeks of a surgery or injury.
suffering from cancer has a family history of cancer, or undergoing chemotherapy.
obesity or being overweight.
being a cigarette smoker.
having given birth in the previous six weeks or being pregnant.
regular intake of birth control pills (oral contraceptives) or undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
suffering from or having a history of diseases like paralysis, stroke, high blood pressure, or chronic heart disease.
a recent injury or trauma to any vein might increase the risk for pulmonary embolism.
acquiring severe injuries, fractures of the thigh bone or hip bones, or burns. being above the age of 60.
if you possess any of these risk factors and have a blood clot, then you should immediately consult your healthcare provider. if proper steps are taken at the right time, then the risk of pulmonary embolism can be avoided.
how to diagnose the disease?
pulmonary embolism is really a difficult disease to diagnose. this is especially true for people who already have underlying lung or heart disease. if you visit a doctor for pulmonary embolism, then you will definitely be asked about your medical history. after this, you will undergo a physical test before undergoing any other diagnostic procedures. the other diagnostic procedures are as follows:-
blood tests- a protein called d dimer is involved with blood clots. if this protein is in your blood at high levels, then you are at an increased risk of developing blood clots. a blood test is done to check for the levels of d dimer in your blood. the amount of oxygen or carbon dioxide is also measured through blood tests. the oxygen levels are lowered when you develop a blood clot in your lungs. other than that, blood tests are also done to determine whether you have a family history of clotting disorders.
chest x-ray- this is a non-invasive test. in this test, the pictures of your heart and lungs are seen on film. x-rays are not said to be able to diagnose pulmonary embolism. they even might appear to be normal even though the patient is suffering from pulmonary embolism. but with the help of an x-ray, conditions that mimic the disease can be ruled out so the diagnosis can be done more properly after.
ultrasound- this is also a non-invasive test. this is known as duplex ultrasonography and is sometimes referred to as duplex scan or compression ultrasonography. this method is used to scan the veins of your knee, calf, thigh, and sometimes, the arms. this is done to check the veins for blood clots. the transducer is a wand-shaped device that is moved over the skin. this emits ultrasonic sound waves to the veins being tested. these waves are reflected back to the device and a moving image is created on the computer screen. if clots are present, then immediate treatment will be prescribed.
ct pulmonary angiography- ct scan is a method in which x rays are generated to produce cross-sectional images of the body. ct pulmonary embolism study, which is also known as ct pulmonary angiography. this method creates a 3d image that is used to study the abnormalities in the organs. this method is used to check for signs of pulmonary embolism in the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. in some cases, intravenous dye is injected to study the images of the veins and arteries clearly.
ventilation-perfusion scan (v/q scan)- this is a method that is used in times when there is a necessity of avoiding exposure to radiation. this is also used in times when the contrast dye for a ct scan cannot be used for underlying medical conditions. for this method, a tracer is injected into the arm of the individual to be tested. the blood flow is checked with the help of this tracer and also the airflow is tested. in this way, the presence of clots in veins and arteries are detected.
mri- a medical technique of imaging where a magnetic field is used and computer-generated radio waves help to create very detailed images of the organs and the tissues inside the body of an individual.
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