Embolism: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

In our body, blood can clot for various reasons and many times it happens naturally to prevent loss of blood due to injury. In other cases, it can clot inside the veins or arteries and start to move around the body. However, it can get stuck in the process at some place and cause blockage of proper blood flow in that region. This condition is typically known as Embolism and the type of embolism is classified based on where the blockage is positioned in the body. It can cause various symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath. In normal cases, the blockage will get cleared on its own as the body can naturally break down the clots over a period of time. However, when it does not happen and the clots are located near the lungs region, it can become life threatening and you should get timely treatment at this stage to avoid complications. Some of the common risk factors for this condition include being overweight and smoking excessively. Even pregnancy can cause some of the symptoms of embolism and you should consult your doctor if the symptoms are painful. You need to be very careful about certain types of embolism as they can be fatal when you are not providing treatment. When it comes to treating the condition, medication is used in the early stages for blood thinning and when it does not give proper results, surgery to remove the clot is undertaken to clear the blockage.

Types of Embolism

  • Pulmonary Embolism : This condition occurs when the blood clot in the legs usually called deep vein thrombosis gets accumulated at the arteries near the lungs. This can be fatal in most cases and you need to take care of symptoms at the early stage to handle the condition.
  • Brain Embolism : Even this can be fatal as the blockage gets lodged in the brain region and can eventually lead to stroke or other disorders of the brain.
  • Retinal Embolism : In this condition, the blood clot affects the retina and it can block supply of blood to this region leading to blindness. However, it can be resolved later after removing the blockage from the affected area.
  • Septic Embolism : This condition occurs due to infection when blood vessels get blocked from the infected particles in the body.
  • Amniotic Embolism : This condition happens during pregnancy when the amniotic fluids block the area near the lungs.
  • Fat Embolism : In this condition, the particles of the bone marrow or fat cells can cause blockage in blood vessels.

Symptoms of Embolism

  • There are many symptoms of this condition and it depends on the type of embolism that has affected the patient. Apart from that, it also depends on the region of blood clot and its size.
  • The most obvious symptom of this condition will be pain in the chest region and this is common when you are suffering from pulmonary embolism. The pain can also extend to the neck region and even affect the shoulders in many cases.
  • As this condition affects the lungs and heart region, it can cause rapid breathing and also lead to irregular heartbeat. This can cause lot of complications in the long run and you need to be careful when you are facing such symptoms.
  • When it starts affecting the brain region, most people experience light headedness and this can also lead to fainting in many cases. Such people are also likely to suffer from anxiety issues on a regular basis.
  • In some cases, you may also notice blood in the saliva and this should be taken as a serious symptom of this condition.

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Causes of Embolism

  • In our body, blood clots can happen for a variety of reasons and this is not the major problem as the body naturally dissolves them at a later stage. However, the problem starts when these clots begin to move around the body and this can affect the blood flow to various organs.
  • In most cases, this begins with blood clots in the legs and it travels towards the lungs and starts affecting the normal functioning of these organs.
  • It can happen due to injury or internal muscle damage due to other reasons. Also people suffering from serious health issues who are not able to move around frequently suffer from such blood clots in the leg region.
  • Having other medical conditions like cancer can also cause such complications as the chemotherapy treatment taken for this condition will cause blood clots in some cases.
  • You are also more likely to get this condition if you have a family history of such conditions and you should be very careful in this scenario.
  • It can also get triggered after a major surgery and this can create blood clots in the legs and other regions of the body.

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Diagnosis of Embolism

  • As most of the symptoms are not specific to this condition, your doctor may conduct a thorough diagnosis with various tests to determine the condition in your body.
  • The first stage of diagnosis begins with examining the chest region and an X ray along with ECG is done to determine the electrical activity of the heart region. This can also give a clear idea about the lungs and any problems in the area can be easily diagnosed with these tests.
  • In the next step, the MRI scan will be done to get detailed images of the body and this will be effective way to determine the source of blood clot in the body.
  • In the same manner a CT scan will give complete details about the lungs and this will help the doctors to analyze the condition in a proper manner.
  • In some cases when the above tests are not giving confirmed results, angiography is done wherein a special dye is injected to the blood vessels and this gives clear picture about the outer region of the lungs.
  • The Ultrasound test will be a good way to detect blood clots in the leg region and the doctors can easily get to see the complete images of the affected area. Even an X ray of the leg region will be taken in this case.
  • Apart from this other blood tests like the D Dimer test will be done to know about the blood clots in the body and suitable treatment will be started after this process.

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Prevention of Embolism

  • It is not possible to prevent all types of embolism as most of them will be beyond your control. However, it is possible to prevent blood clot in the legs and other regions by taking some precautionary measures.
  • In the case of fat related embolism issues, it is a good idea to reduce weight as this will naturally decrease the fat cells in the body and you will have less chances of developing this condition in future.
  • In the same manner, by taking suitable measures to prevent infection in the body, you will be able to avoid septic embolism in the long run.
  • It becomes very easy to avoid pulmonary embolism when you are able to prevent blood clotting in the leg region. In this situation, using blood thinners medication is a good idea when you are likely to develop blood clot in the body. This can be effective when you are dealing with an injury or when you are about to go for a surgery. It can also be an effective option for people suffering from heart related issues.
  • The simple option to avoid blood clotting in the legs is to use compression socks and this can be customized as per your individual requirements. This will keep the blood circulation in the legs in proper order and you can easily spend long hours at work without worrying about leg swelling and other issues.
  • Whenever you feel tired and want to relax for some time, you can elevate your legs and lie down for a few minutes. This will reverse the blood flow to the head region and your legs will get some relief from swelling and other problems. In this way, you can prevent blood clot in the leg region.
  • Many people take bed rest after getting a surgery or when they are having serious health conditions. However, you should remember that this can lead to pulmonary embolism and you should be physically active to improve blood circulation in the body. Make sure that you walk for a few minutes every day as this will help to avoid blood clots in the body.
  • You are more likely to suffer from this condition during travel and it becomes important to walk once in a while to keep the blood circulation in proper order. You can also wear compression socks if you are prone to leg swelling problems.

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Treatment for Embolism

  • When the embolism is still in the early stages and the size of the blood clot is small, it can be effectively treated using medication. However, when it becomes difficult to handle the situation in this manner, surgery is used to clear the clots in the body.
  • The most common method used to treat this condition is blood thinning medication and this will be effective in preventing new clots in the affected region. In this way, the situation can be brought under control in quick time.
  • After this is done, clot dissolving medication is used and this can breakdown the clots in a natural manner in quick time. However, it has some serious side effects as it can lead to excessive bleeding and it is only used in emergency cases.
  • When the above methods are not effective, surgery is used and a small filter will be installed in the affected veins. This will prevent the clots in the leg region from moving towards the lungs and further complications can be avoided in this manner.
  • Apart from this, whenever possible, the entire clot is removed using surgery and this will give long term relief in most cases. Even after surgery, it is required to monitor the condition seriously for a long time as this can again affect the body in future.

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Complications of Embolism

  • This condition can easily lead to fatal consequences when it is not treated at the right time. Especially in case of pulmonary embolism, many people die when it is not detected in early stages. However, it is possible to treat the condition with proper treatment when it is detected in the initial stages.
  • In some cases, this condition can also cause hypertension and lead to various complications in future. It causes pulmonary hypertension in usual cases where in it begins to affect the blood pressure in the chest region and the proper functioning of the lungs and heart will get affected due to this problem.
  • The load on the heart to pump blood through the blocked vessels will be more and this can eventually lead to heart failure where the muscles of the heart become very weak.
  • In rare cases, this condition can become chronic and you will have to monitor your health condition throughout your life to get relief from these problems. This can become very difficult to handle and you will have to take medication regularly to control the symptoms.

Conclusion

Even though it does not look like a serious problem in the first place, it can eventually lead to fatal consequences in many cases. The symptoms of this condition is not specific to blood clotting and you may initially confuse them for general weakness in the body. However, you should not neglect the symptoms and immediately seek medical treatment to avoid further complications. After making a thorough diagnosis, your doctor will be able to determine the source of the blood clot and treatment will be started to clear the clots. While medication can clear most clots in the body, surgery is used when the clots are big in size and it has affected crucial areas of the body. Remember that when it is completely cured, you should take precautionary measures to avoid them in future.

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Last updated on : 24-12-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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