A pulmonary embolism is a serious health problem that can lead to death if not treated. The pulmonary doctors at California Lung Associates in downtown Los Angeles, CA can diagnose and treat the problem before it worsens.
Pulmonary embolisms are blood clots that develop within the lungs. Because the blood clots can impede normal blood flow and lower blood oxygen levels, pulmonary embolisms can cause serious lung damage or may even be fatal if not treated.
Pulmonary embolisms happen for several different reasons. Most commonly, pulmonary embolisms are the result of deep vein thrombosis. In deep vein thrombosis, blood clots develop in the legs or pelvic area.
Some people have a higher risk of deep vein thrombosis leading to pulmonary embolisms. Genetics may be involved, as people with a family history of any type of embolism will have a higher risk themselves. Leg or hip fractures, blood clotting disorders, a previous heart attack, previous stroke, lack of physical activity, the use of supplemental hormones, and advanced age may all put a person at higher risk for developing pulmonary embolism.
Symptoms are not always obvious with pulmonary embolisms. With smaller clots, patients may not be aware that they have an embolism until it grows in size. Larger clots and multiple clots almost always cause recognizable symptoms, however. Breathing problems are the most obvious signs for most people. Patients often feel as if they can’t take a full breath, or feel as if they are frequently short of breath. This can happen very slowly over time, but it can also develop quite suddenly. Some patients with pulmonary embolisms will develop a bluish cast to the skin. This happens due to the lack of oxygen in the blood. Chest pain is another common symptom of a pulmonary embolism. This pain may be confined to the chest only, but in some patients, it moves into the shoulder, neck or arm areas. Some sufferers may notice that their heartbeat is unusually rapid, and the pulse may be weaker than normal in patients with a pulmonary embolism.
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