Spring is the time when everything wakes up after the winter time – including your allergies, colds and flus. You experience the typical symptoms of feeling tired, being short of breath and coughing endlessly. In most cases, you will take some vitamins and look forward to the summer, but sometimes all these symptoms can be a precursor to something much more serious – Pulmonary embolism.
Pulmonary embolism (PE) is typically the result of Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot developed in one of your legs, which travels to the lungs and blocks one of the pulmonary arteries. If left untreated, PE is a life-threatening condition and can potentially be fatal, the mortality rate being roughly 30 percent.
Pulmonary embolism is surprisingly common, and not only with seniors, but also young adults. Everyone will surely remember the problems of Serena Williams four years ago that kept her from grand slamming on the tennis courts for a while. After a foot injury and two subsequent surgeries she was hospitalized with pulmonary embolism that was fortunately caught in time and left no serious permanent damage. But how is it possible that such a strong young athlete, healthy and in shape, suffers a condition like this? And can it be in any way related to varicose veins?
There are other causes of pulmonary embolism, but in the majority of cases, blot clot in lower limbs is the culprit. And the risk factors of developing deep vein thrombosis are definitely not unusual, especially if they start piling up:
- Medical history (genetic blood disorders, heart disease, cancer)
- Bed rest and immobilization
- Long traveling (sitting on a plane or in a car)
- Surgery (this is usually in combination with bed rest following the surgery)
- Excess weight
- Birth control pills
None of these factors are extremely risky on their own, but start combining them together and you have a perfect recipe for a disaster. If you had a recent surgery, and you’re a smoker on a birth control pill, good luck on your next long-haul flight!
Varicose veins are not a direct cause of pulmonary embolism, but they are always related to some sort of venous insufficiency and poor blood circulation, both of which can be contributing factors in the development of PE as well. In other words, if you have varicose veins, you should always be careful about other risk factors causing DVT and PE, and probably consult risky situations (such as long-haul flights or post-surgery measures) with your doctor. He will know best how to prevent anything dangerous from happening.
After all, too many risk factors were probably the cause of Serena’s pulmonary embolism as well – two surgeries on her foot, immobilization and prolonged sitting on a long-haul flight had horrifying consequences for this otherwise strong and healthy woman. Now, you might not be the world’s best tennis player, but your legs deserve no less attention. Be aware of all risk factors and try to prevent them from occurring at the same time!