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What are the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism?

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Common symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing, explains Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms that may occur are fever, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, leg swelling or pain, and excessive sweating. Symptoms can vary considerably among patients.

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Shortness of breath associated with a pulmonary embolism usually occurs suddenly and worsens with exertion, according to Mayo Clinic. Certain behaviors may cause the chest pain to worsen, such as eating, coughing, breathing deeply or bending over, and the patient may cough up bloody sputum. Factors that influence the symptoms a patient experiences include the clot size, the person's overall health and how much of the lung tissue is affected. A pulmonary embolism is potentially life-threatening, so anyone who experiences unexplained symptoms characteristic of a pulmonary embolism should seek immediate medical attention.

A pulmonary embolism occurs when one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs becomes blocked, states Mayo Clinic. The condition most often results from blood clots becoming dislodged in the legs and traveling to the lungs. Almost all cases of pulmonary embolism are associated with a condition called deep vein thrombosis, and many doctors use the term venous thromboembolism to refer to both conditions in conjunction. Cancer, immobility and surgery are some factors that place one at an increased risk for both pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis.

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