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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 a small piece of blood clot, fat, air, or tumor cells. The embolus cuts off the blood supply to your lungs. A pulmonary embolism can become life-threatening.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
- You cough up blood.
- You have a seizure.
- 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.
Seek care immediately if:
- You feel faint.
- You have a severe headache.
- Your heart is beating faster than normal.
Contact your healthcare provider 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.
- Blood thinners help treat the PE and prevent new clots from forming. Examples of blood thinners include heparin, rivaroxaban, apixiban, and warfarin. The following are general safety guidelines to follow while you are taking a blood thinner:
- Watch for bleeding and bruising. 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 a blood thinner. 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 blood thinner , or if you take too much.
- Warfarin is a blood thinner that you may need to take. The following are additional 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. 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 or not to eat.
- You will need to see your healthcare provider for follow-up visits. You will need regular blood tests to decide how much warfarin you need.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her 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.
Prevent another PE:
- Wear pressure stockings. The stockings are tight and put pressure on your legs. This improves blood flow and helps prevent clots. Wear the stockings during the day. Do not wear them when you sleep.
- Exercise regularly. Ask about the best exercise plan for you. When you travel by car or work at a desk, 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.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can damage blood vessels and increase your risk for another PE. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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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.