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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Pulmonary embolism, the silent killer you should beware of

Within the vast landscape of health concerns, there are certain conditions that silently weave their way into people’s lives, evading attention until it’s almost too late.

One of such insidious threat that demands urgent awareness is Pulmonary Embolism (PE). This hidden danger can strike anyone, regardless of age or gender, with potentially devastating consequences.

What is pulmonary embolism?
Experts say PE occurs when a blood clot, typically originating from the deep veins of the legs, embarks on a treacherous journey through the bloodstream, ultimately reaching the lungs. Once there, it obstructs the vital pathways responsible for oxygenation, sending shockwaves through the body’s delicate balance.

The stealthy nature of this health condition and potentially fatal consequences demand our attention.

Pulmonary embolism patient

Imagine a scenario where you wake up feeling a bit off, dismissing it as a simple case of fatigue. Yet, as the day progresses, you find yourself short of breath, gasping for precious air.

Chest discomfort creeps in, accompanied by an unsettling cough. Panic sets in as you realize something is terribly wrong. This is the scary reality that individuals facing pulmonary embolism encounter.

Few days ago, this deadly health condition claimed the life of 56-year-old Publisher of Nigerian NewsDirect Newspaper, Dr. Samuel Ibiyemi.

Dr. Ibiyemi died on Tuesday at the Babcock University Teaching Hospital, Ilishan Remo, Ogun State, of pulmonary embolism.

His death came as a rude shock to many who described his demise as a colossal loss to journalism and the media industry in Nigeria.

Understanding this condition, therefore, is the first step towards prevention and early intervention.

According to the Lagos Executive Cardiovascular Centre (LECC), PE is a life-threatening medical condition resulting from a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the lungs.

Pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening medical condition resulting from a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the lungs

It is a thrombotic disorder that occurs when a blood clot breaks loose (usually from the leg, also known as deep vein thrombosis), and travels through the bloodstream of the lungs.

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What happens when not treated aggressively and appropriately? It may result in:

  • Right heart failure and cardiac arrest
  • Permanent damage to the lungs
  • Damage of other organs due to the non-supply of enough oxygen-rich blood

Who is at risk for PE?
PE can occur in anyone, but persons with the following characteristics are at greater risk: People with –

  • Family history of blood clots, PE or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and certain genetics changes
  • Medical conditions such as blood clotting disorder, cancer, heart disease and lung disease
  • Recent surgery (within the last 2 months) or hospitalisation
  • Pregnancy and childbirth at about 6 weeks
  • Increasing age especially over 60
  • Long flights
  • Immobility
  • Obesity
  • Estrogen supplements
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Are there symptoms associated with PE?

Most people with PE develop no symptoms, however, common symptoms among those who have include:

  • Coughing up blood or coughing up brown substance
  • Breathlessness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Chest pain: a sharp stabbing pain when you breathe in
  • Inability to lift your breast on the affected side
  • DVT
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness

Treatment
The LECC said patients that have been diagnosed with PE require immediate treatment with the goal to break up the clots and keep other clots from forming.

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Varying treatments accompany different patients and varying degrees of PE alongside other medical conditions such as low blood pressure. The overall goal is to stop the clot from growing, prevent new ones and destroy existing ones.

It added that with timely treatment, most patients with PE make full recovery and are able to live their lives as normal. Nevertheless, the condition still has a very high risk of fatality hence, the importance of early treatment.

Minimizing risk
In order to minimise the risk of PE, it is important to include physical activity into your routine, take a healthy diet, and quit smoking.

Christiana Alabi-Akande
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