Risky Business: What is PE and How to Know if You Might Be at Risk

With a mortality rate ranging from 18 percent to 65 percent, pulmonary embolism (PE) is one of the deadliest medical conditions. Yet, despite its life-threatening risks, it seldom makes its way into public discourse. The chances of developing PE increases as you get older, so it’s crucial to know whether or not you’re at risk for PE.

What is a Pulmonary Embolism?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with PE, here is a short rundown of what pulmonary embolism is and how it forms. In medical terms, “pulmonary” refers to the lungs and “embolism” refers to a clot. Together, a pulmonary embolism means a clot within the lung’s arteries.

Usually, PE is caused by blood clots that travel to the arteries of the lungs from other parts of the body. While clotting is a critical part of the body’s mending process when it comes to injuries, clots can clog the arteries when they get mixed into the bloodstream and travel to the lungs. If this happens, it’s only a matter of time before our lungs cease to function correctly, leading to the total shutdown of the body.

Symptoms of PE

Now that you’re aware of how dangerous PE can be, you should learn to identify the signs of PE so you can take action if needed. The most common symptoms of PE include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Excessive and violent coughing of blood.
  • Excessive sweating at random.
  • Dizziness or passing out from lightheadedness.
  • Leg pain accompanied by swelling.
  • Discolored skin.

If you notice yourself suffering from a few of these symptoms at the same time, you need to consult with a physician immediately.

Warning Signs and Risk Factors

Aside from experiencing symptoms, identifying certain risk factors can help you determine if you have an increased chance of suffering from PE. Primary risk factors include the following:

  • A family history of PE or blood-related disorders.
  • Smoking decreases blood pressure and blood flow, increasing the chances of developing PE.
  • Obesity dramatically increases the chances of PE, more so than smoking.
  • In some situations, pregnancy can trigger PE in women.
  • Trauma or injuries affecting veins can lead to PE.

Identifying the Signs Saves Lives

Fortunately, the increase in PE cases in recent years has led to a spike in pulmonary embolism research worldwide. This trend has allowed the medical community to make steady advances in identifying PE symptoms, helping save thousands of lives every year.

With a high mortality rate, PE is not a medical condition that can be taken lightly. If you suspect you or a loved one is at risk, you should immediately contact your doctor and schedule an appointment.