There are many causes for a pulmonary embolism, but the most common is DVT. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, every year about 300,000 people experience a pulmonary embolism because of DVT. When a pulmonary embolism occurs, a piece of this clot breaks off the main clot and travels to the lungs.
The following are other causes of a pulmonary embolism, but they do not occur as frequently as DVT:
- Air bubbles
- Fat deposits (these can be released when a bone is broken or when a limb is amputated)
- Collagen and other tissues
- Amniotic fluid
The most common symptom of a pulmonary embolism is a sudden shortness in breath or difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include:
- A sharp pain in the chest that gets worse if you cough or breathe deeply
- A cough that produces mucus that is pink in color and has a foamy consistency
Since a pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening, it is important to see a vein doctor or emergency physician as soon as possible if you notice any of the above symptoms.
You can decrease your risk of a pulmonary embolism by avoiding smoking, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a normal weight for your height and age. Also, it’s important that when traveling long distances you take frequent breaks and walks to improve blood circulation and decrease your risk of clotting.
The most common treatments of a pulmonary embolism are anticoagulant medications such as warfarin (Coumadin), heparin and clopidogrel (Plavix). Other treatments – if the patient is unable to take anticoagulants – can include surgically removing the clots or using a catheter to insert a filter into the central vein of the body.
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