A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lung. It happens when a clot that forms in another part of the body, usually the legs (see deep vein thrombosis), breaks away and travels through the veins to the lung. If the clot lodges in one or more of the arteries in the lung, it very suddenly blocks your blood flow. When this happens you may notice an unusual shortness of breath, have chest pain when breathing or begin coughing up blood.
Not everyone has symptoms, however. Many healthy people can develop a pulmonary embolism. Unfortunately, once you’ve had it, you’re also more likely to have the condition again. So it’s important to learn all you can, including the signs or symptoms of deep vein thrombosis.
If you think you have a pulmonary embolism, contact your doctor right away. It’s usually treated in the hospital. Your doctor might prescribe medication that thins your blood, helping to break up the clot and prevent new ones from forming. You may need to stay on this medication for a period of time. Be sure to talk with your doctor about the risk of bleeding, as well as other things you can do to lower the chances you’ll have another clot in your lung.
Use this condition center to learn more about pulmonary embolism, create a list of questions to ask your health care provider, and much more.