Can Pulmonary Embolism be Overlooked? Athletes and those that exercise regularly, who exhibit symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism (PE) may be completely overlooked by healthcare professionals and trainers when searching for answers to their seemingly common, though unresolved, pangs. This is generally because most athletes and those who get regular exercise are considered healthy. This causes doctors to naturally bypass the possibility that these people could be exhibiting symptoms of blood clots . Symptoms of PE can be mistaken and interpreted as muscle tears, shin splints, pulled muscles, shortness of breath or even bronchitis, which is why these issues can be so easily overlooked. Pulmonary Embolism can be a life threatening complication observed in the setting of deep venous thrombosis. In over 25% individuals, instant death occurs before any medical or surgical treatment is available. Even if PE is rare in healthy, active individuals, there have been cases brought on by unknown factors, history of smoking or history of DVT or PE in your family. Not one of you reading this should be in fear of this happening to you, but it has happened and is good to understand what PE is. ABC of Pulmonary Embolism In layman’s terms, PE and DVT are simply blood clots. The clot itself is referred to as an Embolus. The clots travel in the blood stream from deep veins of the body (mostly of lower limbs) and when the blood clot blocks or obstructs pulmonary vessels, it may lead to pulmonary embolism that presents with symptoms such as:
Shortness of breath
Sudden tightness or constriction pain in chest
Cough (that may contain streaks of blood)
Irregular heart beat or abnormal rhythm
Wheezing sound in the chest
Moderate to severe swelling of one leg (suggestive of possible deep venous thrombosis).
Bluish discoloration of face due to decreasing oxygen saturation.
The window to take action after an episode of pulmonary embolism is very little so it is very important to seek medical help as early as possible. Pulmonary embolism cases are reported in the setting of a traveling embolus. The embolus can be a clot from one of the deep veins of abdomen or lower limb or other forms of emboli like:
A tumor fragment (most cases are reported after radiotherapy)
Fat emboli (most frequently reported after the fracture of a long bone).
Iatrogenic cases are reported in the clinical setting when air bubble get access in the system via wrong use of syringe or as a result of air- lock while giving intravenous fluids.
Risk Factors of Pulmonary Embolism History of prolonged immobilization after surgery or injury may increase the risk of thrombus formation in the deep veins of legs that may dislodge. Additionally, fracture of long bones or valvular dysfunction can also cause an Embolus. Other risk factors include:
A previous history of deep venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
Positive history of smoking
Morbid obesity (with a BMI above 30 kg/ m2)
For those of you that exercise every day you should have no worry of any circulation issues, but it is so important to be aware of PE and if you have a history of PE or DVT in your family. According to estimates of Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 33% of all reported cases of pulmonary embolism experience a recurrence within 10 years. This is why it is so important for you to keep your healthy lifestyle and diet to further decrease your risk of pulmonary embolism. References: “Pulmonary Embolism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 29 July 2013. Web. 01 Aug. 2013. . “PE and DVT.” Understanding Pulmonary Embolism (PE) and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Aug. 2013. Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Definition.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Jan. 2013. Web. 01 Aug. 2013. .
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