What are the Different Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2019
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Pulmonary embolism symptoms do not always appear in individuals with the condition. When they do present themselves, the most common indicators are chest pain, a cough, and shortness of breath. As pulmonary embolism symptoms can be similar to those of pneumonia, a heart attack or a panic attack, they may not be easy to diagnose.

The most common pulmonary embolism symptoms typically appear in a predictable fashion. If a patient experiences shortness of breath, it will usually happen suddenly and whether or not the individual is engaged in physical activity at the time. A cough connected with the condition will often bring up mucus that is foamy and either bloody or streaked slightly with blood. If chest pain occurs as a result of a pulmonary embolism, it will not subside and will become more severe with physical activity such as coughing, bending, eating, or taking a deep breath. It may feel similar to a heart attack.

There are several other possible pulmonary embolism symptoms. These include a weak pulse, signs of shock, fainting, or a light-headed feeling. Some patients may experience an irregular or rabid heartbeat and wheezing. Other symptoms include skin that is clammy or a blue hue, profuse sweating, or swelling of the legs.


Blocked arteries in the lungs cause pulmonary embolism. This is usually due to a blood clot that has moved with the blood flow into the arteries of the lungs. Most of these kinds of blood clots are formed in the deep veins of one of the legs. It is also possible, thought extremely rare, for the blood clots that cause pulmonary embolism to form in surface veins.

There are several other possible causes of pulmonary embolism, though they are all rare. Items in the blood, such as fat, air bubbles, pieces of infectious material or other substances foreign to the bloodstream can lead to the condition. In some cases cancerous tumors can also cause a pulmonary embolism.

A pulmonary embolism is a serious, life-threatening condition which should receive immediate medical attention. Most doctors will address the problem with a combination of surgery and medication. Thrombolytic drugs can help to dissolve blood clots more quickly, while anticoagulants such as heparin or warfarin are often prescribed to prevent the formation of new clots. If the clot is too big to be dissolved quickly, surgery may be necessary to remove it. Surgery can also be performed to place a filter in the vein that will prevent new clots from traveling to the lungs of patients who do not respond to or are unable to take anticoagulant medication.



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