Cochise Oncology

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What is a Pulmonary Embolism?

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that occurs in the blood vessels that supply the lungs. Embolisms tend to form when plaque on the walls of arteries or veins breaks off and becomes engorged with clotting factors. If they grow large enough, they can lodge in narrower sections of blood vessels, cutting off blood supply and starving the surrounding tissue of oxygen. 

Pulmonary embolisms can be life-threatening. Occasionally, they can block blood from large regions of the heart and lungs – tissues that are necessary to sustain life. Thus, patients who suspect they have the condition should seek immediate medical assistance. 

Pulmonary Embolism Overview

Usually, the clots that form pulmonary embolisms originate deep within the legs – a condition called deep vein thrombosis. However, they don’t stay there for long. As the heart pumps blood around the body, it pushes the blood clots to other regions. Eventually, they become lodged in the lungs, leading to symptoms like pain, shortness of breath, and cough

Pulmonary embolism can stem from three sources. The most common is prolonged inactivity. Research suggests that long periods of sedentary living cause the blood to stagnate in the legs. Over time, clots form, which can then become unstable, break off and travel to other areas of the body, such as the lungs. 

Some patients also get pulmonary embolisms in response to injury to muscle tissue or blood vessels. As the body attempts to stem internal bleeding, it produces clots that can break off and create blockages elsewhere in the system, particularly the lungs. 

Finally, some medical conditions and treatments can increase the risk of clots forming. 

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Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms 

Pulmonary embolism symptoms include the following: 

  • Shortness of breath. If you’re unable to catch your breath how you usually can, then it could be a sign of a pulmonary embolism. It indicates that the lungs are no longer able to transfer sufficient oxygen to the rest of the body. 
  • Chest pain. Pulmonary embolism can feel very uncomfortable, and you may think you’re having a heart attack. The pain is often sharp and more intense when you take deep breaths. Sometimes, you can’t fill your lungs at all because of discomfort. You may also experience pain when you bend or stoop over. 
  • Cough. Some patients we see at Cochise Oncology also experience a bloody cough. 

Other telltale symptoms of pulmonary embolism include excessive sweating, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, and leg swelling. 

What are the Risks of Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary embolism can be potentially life-threatening. Fortunately, diagnosing and treating the condition rapidly can reduce the risks you face and dramatically improve your survival chances. 

If left untreated, pulmonary embolism can lead to high blood pressure in the lungs and the heart. Over time, this can weaken and damage the heart muscles. At Cochise Oncology we perform a variety of tests to characterize your situation and offer treatment. If you suspect you have this condition, don’t wait. Speak to us as soon as you can.

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Are you ready to learn more about pulmonary embolisms? Reach out to Cochise Oncology at (520) 803-6644 or fill out the consultation form on this page. We look forward to meeting you!

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