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Blood Clots in Lungs – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

Pulmonary embolism or blood clots in the lungs is a problem which occurs when one or even more arteries in the lungs are blocked. In many cases, blood clots in the lungs are caused by clots of blood that flow to your lungs from another area of the body – most frequently, your legs.

Blood clots in the lungs can happen in people who are otherwise healthy. Symptoms and signs can vary from individual to individual, but normally include unexplained and sudden shortness of breath, pains in the chest and a cough that can bring up sputum that is blood-tinged.

Blood clots in the lungs can be life-threatening but treatment which is prompt using anti-clotting drugs can reduce greatly any risk of death. Taking actions to stop blood clots from forming in the legs also can help to protect an individual against pulmonary embolism or the clot from moving from the leg to the lungs.

Blood clots in lungs Symptoms

Blood clots in the lungs have symptoms that may vary significantly, contingent on how much of the lung is involved, the clot size and a person’s general health – especially the existence or absence of any fundamental heart or lung disease.

Common symptoms and signs consist of:

  • Chest pain – The individual can feel as if they are having a heart attack. This pain can become worse when breathing deeply, eating, coughing, stopping or bending over. This pain will get worse upon exertion but will not leave even when the individual is at rest.
  • Shortness of breath – This is a symptom normally appearing suddenly as well as occurring whether you are at rest or active.
  • Cough – This cough can yield bloody or blood-streaked sputum.

Additional symptoms and signs that can happen with blood clots in the lung include:

  • Wheezing
  • Bluish-colored or clammy skin
  • Swelling in the leg
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Fainting or lightheadedness
  • Weak pulse

Pulmonary embolism or blood clots in the lungs may be life-threatening. An individual needs to find speedy medical care if experiencing inexplicable shortness of breath, pain in the chest, or a cough producing bloody sputum.

Causes of Blood Clots in Lungs

Blood clots happen when a mass of material, most often a clot of blood, becomes wedged into an artery of the lungs. These clots frequently develop in the veins deep in the legs, however they may also originate from other areas of the body. This situation is referred to as
deep vein thrombosis” or DVT

Sometimes, other substance may form blockages within the blood vessels inside of the lungs. Examples consist of:


  • Part of a tumor
  • Fat from the marrow of a bone that is broken
  • Air bubbles

It is very rare to have a solitary blood clot. In fact, most cases have multiple clots involved. The tissue of the lung that is attended by each artery that is blocked is not getting energy and could die. This makes it much more problematic for the lungs to get oxygen to the rest of the body.

Because these clots almost always happen in combination with “deep vein thrombosis”, many physicians speak of these 2 situations together as “venous thromboembolism” or VTE.


The rapid treatment of blood clots in the lungs is necessary to stop serious difficulties or even death.



Heparin is a drug that works very rapidly and is normally distributed with a needle. Warfarin or Coumadin is given in oral form. Both will prevent any new clots from developing, but it will take several days before warfarin starts to work. The risks can include gums that bleed as well as bruising easily.

Clot dissolvers – thrombolytics

Clots normally dissolve by themselves but there are drugs that can help clots dissolve rapidly. Because these clot-busting medications can create severe and sudden bleeding, they normally are only used in situations that are life-threatening.

Surgical as well as other procedures

Clot removal

If an individual has a clot in the lung that is very large, the physician may remove it via a flexible thin tube – catheter – threaded thru the blood vessels.

Vein filter

This is when a catheter is also used to station a filter in the main vein – inferior vena cava – which leads from the legs to the right side of the heart. This filter stops clots from being transported to the lungs. This is a procedure that normally is reserved for individuals who cannot take any anticoagulant medication or when anticoagulant medications do not work very well.

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