You think nothing about the collision with your shin and the edge of the coffee table. Inevitably a bruise develops but unbeknownst to you a blood clot also forms. Unfortunately, it dislodges, makes its way to your lungs and a pulmonary embolism is the end result. Many associate a pulmonary embolism as an occurrence as we age. However, no age group is immune. Making headlines lately are an increasing number of younger and younger people, such as former “American Idol” contestant, Michael Johns, and a 17-year-old Maine teenager, actually dying from the embolism. How can you protect yourself against pulmonary embolism?
Why Does Pulmonary Embolism Occur?
When one or more arteries in the lungs becomes blocked, a pulmonary embolism can occur. How did the arteries become blocked? In the majority of instances, a blood clot escapes from a body extremity such as the legs and makes its way to the lungs. When this happens, the occurrence is also known as a deep vein thrombosis. Why is a pulmonary embolism so serious? The blood clot (usually more than one) blocks off the lung artery and quickly causes vital oxygen to be cut off from the sufferer’s circulation.
There are certain risk factors that make a person more susceptible to developing a pulmonary embolism such as:
- Sedentary lifestyle, or sitting for long periods of time
- Pre-existing lung disease or condition
- Heart disease
But then again, anyone can experience a pulmonary embolism. It is important to seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid death.
Over half of the people who have a pulmonary embolism do not have symptoms. Nevertheless, the symptoms that you should be on the lookout for with a pulmonary embolism are:
- Leg swelling and pain
- Skin that is discolored
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Cough with bloody sputum
- Chest pain
How is Pulmonary Embolism Treated?
Once a diagnosis of pulmonary embolism is confirmed, swift treatment is necessary. The goal is to break up the blood clot(s) as quickly as possible, as well as prevent other clots from forming. In most cases, blood thinners are used such as warfarin and heparin.
In a recent study published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, researchers discovered that aspirin at a dose of 100mg a day could assist in reducing the risk of re-occurring blood clots. This news is especially helpful for those individuals who might not be able to take blood thinner medication on a long-term basis.
Prevention of forming blood clots is key in the avoidance of developing a pulmonary embolism. Therefore, post-surgical procedures, most hospitals and outpatient surgery centers will put special sleeves around your legs that alternately compress and release to keep blood circulating while you are immobile.
The following are some other tips:
- After sitting or being immobile for long periods of time, get up and walk around.
- Take medication as prescribed by your physician.