Pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs. In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from the legs or, rarely, other parts of the body (deep vein thrombosis). Because the clots block blood flow to the lungs, pulmonary embolism can be life-threatening. However, prompt treatment greatly reduces the risk of death. Taking measures to prevent blood clots in your legs will help protect you against pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism symptoms can vary greatly, depending on how much of your lung is involved, the size of the clots, and whether you have underlying lung or heart disease.
Common symptoms include:
Shortness of breath. This symptom typically appears suddenly and always gets worse with exertion.
Chest pain. You may feel like you're having a heart attack. The pain may become worse when you breathe deeply (pleurisy), cough, eat, bend or stoop. The pain will get worse with exertion but won't go away when you rest.
Cough. The cough may produce bloody or blood-streaked sputum.
Other signs and symptoms that can occur with pulmonary embolism include:
Leg pain or swelling, or both, usually in the calf
Clammy or discolored skin (cyanosis)
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Light headedness or dizziness