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The Various Factors That Can Cause Pulmonary Embolism

leg pain

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  • Pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots typically originates from a deep vein in the leg, usually due to an injury
  • Blood clots are usually the main cause of pulmonary embolism. However, other types of matter may cause symptoms as well

Pulmonary embolism occurs when an embolus blocks the flow of blood in an artery in the lungs. An embolus is any substance that travels through the blood vessels until it reaches a pathway that is too small to go through. As a result, the blockage causes symptoms such as chest pain, coughing and shortness of breath.1 Blood clots are usually the main cause of pulmonary embolism. However, other types of matter may cause symptoms as well, such as:2

Fat from the bone marrow of a broken long bone


A part of a tumor

Air bubbles

Deep Vein Thrombosis Is the Main Source of the Blood Clots

Pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots typically originate from a deep vein in the leg, usually due to an injury. Possible reasons of injury can be physical, chemical, inflammatory or autoimmune responses. Other times, surgery may cause a blood clot because blood flow is slow and sluggish. When you develop a blood clot in the legs, this condition is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).3

There’s a chance that you may develop pulmonary embolism as a result of having a blood clot in the legs. Here are important indicators you need to watch out for:4

Swelling of the leg or along a vein in the leg

Pain or tenderness in the affected leg, which you will start to feel when standing or walking

Red or discolored skin on the leg

Increased warmth in the affected area of the leg

People who are at risk for DVT are those who have inherited a blood-clotting disorder. Other risk factors include surgery, obesity, smoking and prolonged bed rest due to an injury or paralysis.5

The Risk Factors of Pulmonary Embolism

Anyone can develop blood clots that may eventually lead to pulmonary embolism. However, there are many factors that can increase your risk of developing pulmonary embolism. The most prominent examples include:6

Heart disease: The onset of cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack, significantly increases your risk of blood clots.

Cancer: Some types of cancer, such as pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer, can increase levels of certain substances in your body that may lead to blood clots. Undergoing chemotherapy exacerbates your situation further.

Surgery: This is one of the highest-leading causes of blood clot formation in the body. Blood clots typically form after an operation. If you need to have surgery to treat a medical condition, make sure your blood vessels are monitored to prevent clotting.

Aside from medical reasons, certain activities may cause pulmonary embolism. For example, sitting in a car for long periods of time during a trip can slow down the flow of blood in the legs. Obesity also increases your chances of blood clots, as well as smoking cigarettes.7 Pregnant women should also watch out for pulmonary embolism, because the added weight of the baby can put pressure on the veins in the pelvis, which can slow down blood flow.8


Pulmonary Embolism: Introduction

What Is Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms

Pulmonary Embolism Causes

Pulmonary Embolism Types

Pulmonary Embolism Treatment

Pulmonary Embolism Prevention

Pulmonary Embolism FAQ

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