What is embolism?


Know the basics

What is embolism?

Embolism is a condition that the blood flow in an artery is blocked by other strange objects, such as a blood clot or an air bubble.

There are different types of embolism:

  • Pulmonary embolism: the embolus is formed in the leg and located in one of the arteries of the lungs. This condition mostly disappears by itself.
  • Brain embolism: if the blood clot moves to the brain, it may cause a stroke or transient ischemic attack.
  • Retinal embolism: small blood clots can block the small vessels at the back of the eye, this usually results in blindness.
  • Septic embolism: this happens when infection causes small substances to block the blood vessels.
  • Amniotic embolism: during pregnancy, amniotic fluid can move to the mother’s lungs and causes pulmonary amniotic embolism.
  • Air embolism: air bubbles in the blood can block arterial blood flow, this mostly occurs with divers.
  • Fat embolism: fat or bone marrow can block the bloodstream the same way as air.

How common is embolism?

Embolism can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of embolism?

The common symptoms of embolism are:

  • Short and rapid breath;
  • Bloody sputum;
  • Coughing;
  • Dizziness;
  • Fainting;
  • Intense chest pain or back pain.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes embolism?

Embolism is caused by the blocking of the objects in your blood.

  • Blood clots. Some health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, cancer or pregnancy can cause blood clots. They can move in the blood flow before located in an organ.
  • A bone crack or complications after a surgery can create fat particles in the bone and release them into the bloodstream.
  • Divers can get embolism from air bubbles when they get out of the water too quickly, as a result of the change in the pressure
  • Cholesterol can be formed from atherosclerosis and travel into the bloodstream
  • Amniotic fluid. This fluid which is used to protect the baby during pregnancy can make it way into the mother’s blood vessels and cause blockage.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for embolism?

There are many risk factors for embolism, such as:

  • Obesity with the BMI of 30 or higher;
  • Pregnancy;
  • You are 60 or more;
  • Smoking;
  • Heart disease;
  • You have not do any activities for a long time.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is embolism diagnosed?

Beside checking for physical symptoms and asking about your medical history, embolism is diagnosed by these tests:

  • Chest X-ray, a ventilation perfusion (V/Q) scan, CT scan or pulmonary angiography will be conducted to check for the presence of any objects that are blocking the blood flow.
  • For diagnoses the deeper veins or brain scans, stroke, angiography, Doppler ultrasound studies or impedance plethysmography (IPG) may be done to find arteries that are blocked.

How is embolism treated?

Embolism treatments depend on the cause, size and the site of the blockage.

  • Anticoagulant medications, such as warfarin, heparin and low dose aspirin can be recommended to break embolisms and prevent the bloodstream from getting blood clots.
  • Air embolism is treated in a hyperbaric room in which the pressure of air is higher than normal which reduces the air bubbles inside the body
  • In order to remove an blockage, a surgery will be performed by cutting the affected artery and the objects blocking the blood flow.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage embolism?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with embolism:

  • A healthy and balance diet low in fat, rich in fiber, wholegrain, fruits and vegetables;
  • Reduce the intake of salt with less than 6grams a day;
  • Try to lose weight if you are obese;
  • Avoid smoking;
  • Practice exercises for a healthy body.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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