Watch Out for These Telltale Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism

Senior woman having chest pain

Story at-a-glance -

  • Pulmonary embolism has the potential to be a fatal disease. If you suddenly develop breathing problems, visit a doctor right away to receive the proper treatment
  • It’s important to be aware of the symptoms so that you can be treated right away. Here are the most important ones to look out for

Recognizing the symptoms of pulmonary embolism is crucial. If detected and treated early, survival rate significantly increases and your recovery is optimistic.1 Sadly, there are cases where symptoms do not appear at all and immediately cause a fatality.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sudden death occurs in 25 percent of people diagnosed with pulmonary embolism.2 In light of this information, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms so you can be treated right away. Here are the most important ones to look out for:

Shortness of breath: This is typically the first symptom you’ll notice. It will worsen with prolonged exertion.

Coughing: You may produce blood-streaked sputum once a blockage develops.

Chest pain: An important indicator of pulmonary embolism.

The aforementioned symptoms may be confused with other diseases that are isolated in the chest area, such as a heart attack. To be able to truly distinguish if you have pulmonary embolism, pay attention to your breathing. As you breathe deeper, the pain will worsen.3

How to Diagnose the Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism

Diagnosing pulmonary embolism usually starts with a review of your medical history. This will help your doctor determine if you have risk factors and lifestyle choices that may have led to the development of the disease. In addition, it will help rule out other diseases that exhibit similar symptoms. Once this is finished, other tests will be conducted to help reach a definite conclusion:4

Blood Tests

A D-dimer blood test is conducted to help look for pulmonary embolism. D-dimer is a protein found in the blood after a blood clot has broken down. If results indicate high levels of this substance, it can suggest that a blood clot has broken loose and may become lodged in your pulmonary artery.5

Ultrasound

An ultrasound is a procedure that uses soundwaves to create highly detailed images of a body part that is being scanned. Using a transducer, the soundwaves are detected and projected into a computer monitor. A doctor will typically begin the exam on your legs because these are the areas where blood clots form before ending up in the lungs.

Computerized Tomography Pulmonary Angiography (CTPA)

A CTPA is a procedure that allows doctors to make your blood vessels easier to see during a computerized tomography (CT) scan. To do this, your doctor will inject your veins with a special dye, allowing them to contrast with the rest of your body parts for easier visual inspection.

Ventilation-Perfusion Scan

This procedure is used to test the interaction between the flow of air and blood in your lungs. You will be asked to inhale a specialized gas that will help highlight airflow while doctors take scans of your lungs. In addition, you will be injected with a substance that will highlight your blood vessels to help make visual inspections easier.

Visit a Doctor Right Away if You Experience Breathing Problems and Chest Pains

Pulmonary embolism has the potential to be a fatal disease. If you suddenly develop breathing problems, visit a doctor right away to receive the proper treatment. Remember, early detection dramatically increases your chances for survival.

MORE ABOUT PULMONARY EMBOLISM

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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