PE is a life threatening situation. If you have any of the warning signs, it is imperative that you get medical attention right away. The American Medical Association lists the warnings signs as:
* breathless feelings that come on without explanation and suddenly
* rapid pulse
* a feeling of dizziness or lightheadedness
* chest pains when you inhale
* coughing up blood or blood-stained phlegm
Once again, these signs could indicate a life threatening situation and you should seek medical care right away.
The main risk factor of course is having a clot somewhere. Clots are usually the result of some other disease condition, such as thrombophilia. Many PE's are the result of a clot breaking loose from an area of recent surgery. patients undergoing various types of surgery - including general, orthopedic and gynecological-obstetrical - are at higher risk for developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and PE. Of these groups, orthopedic patients appear to be especially prone to thrombosis, particularly patients with hip fracture. Patients with various types of medical diseases, including cancer and certain chronic diseases, are also at high risk.
Pregnant women also have an increased chance of developing DVT, which is a clot in the veins, usually of the leg. If those clots move to the lungs, it results in a PE. Inactivity such as prolonged bed rest or travel (such as a trans-oceanic flight) that leaves you not moving for an extended period of time can cause clots to form as well. An injury to your leg or your pelvis also increases your risk.
People who survive a pulmonary embolism are at higher risk of developing another one. This may increase their risk of developing another dangerous condition called pulmonary hypertension.
Staying healthy is important. Following all the rules for a healthy heart is a good first start. Regular exercise will help to keep your blood flowing smoothly. If you must take a long trip, make sure you get up and move around whenever possible. Pregnant women should discuss the situation with their doctors and be aggressive in seeking treatment for any potential problems. The National Cancer Institute has also identified tamoxifen and hormonal replace therapy as possible risk factors for PE.