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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
A pulmonary embolism (PE) is the sudden blockage of a blood vessel in the lungs by an embolus. An embolus is usually caused by a blood clot, but may also be fat, air, or tumor cells. The blood clot may break loose from the blood vessels in your leg or arm. The clot travels to the lungs where it cuts off the blood supply to your lungs.
- Blood thinners help prevent blood clots. Examples of blood thinners include heparin and warfarin. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. The following are general safety guidelines to follow while you are taking a blood thinner:
- Watch for bleeding and bruising while you take blood thinners. Watch for bleeding from your gums or nose. Watch for blood in your urine and bowel movements. Use a soft washcloth on your skin, and a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth. This can keep your skin and gums from bleeding. If you shave, use an electric shaver. Do not play contact sports.
- Tell your dentist and other healthcare providers that you take anticoagulants. Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you take this medicine.
- Do not start or stop any medicines unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Many medicines cannot be used with blood thinners.
- Tell your healthcare provider right away if you forget to take the medicine, or if you take too much.
- Warfarin is a blood thinner that you may need to take. The following are things you should be aware of if you take warfarin.
- Foods and medicines can affect the amount of warfarin in your blood. Do not make major changes to your diet while you take warfarin. Warfarin works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables and certain other foods. Ask for more information about what to eat when you are taking warfarin.
- You will need to see your healthcare provider for follow-up visits when you are on warfarin. You will need regular blood tests. These tests are used to decide how much medicine you need.
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or hematologist as directed:
You may need to return regularly to have your blood tested if you are on blood thinners. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
- Wear pressure stockings: These tight stockings put pressure on your legs to increase your blood flow. Wear the stockings during the day. Do not wear them when you sleep.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Ask your primary healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
- Be active: When you travel by car or plane, take breaks to stand up and move around as much as possible. Rotate your feet in circles often if you sit for a long period of time. Ask your primary healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. This will help increase your blood flow.
- Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information about how to stop smoking if you need help.
Contact your primary healthcare provider or hematologist if:
- The skin on any part of your legs or hips turns purple.
- Your gums or nose bleed.
- You see blood in your urine or bowel movements.
- Your bowel movements are black or darker than normal.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You feel faint.
- Your heart is beating faster than normal.
- You have a seizure or severe headache.
- You have slurred speech, increased sleepiness, or problems seeing, talking, or thinking.
- You have weakness or cannot move your arm or leg on one side of your body.
- Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
- You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.