Pulmonary embolism (also called PE) is a condition wherein blood clots are found inside the lungs. Normally, such blood clots occur in the relatively small vessels in the arms, pelvis, legs or even the heart. However, sometimes, the clots may turn out to be large. When there is blood clotting in the major veins of the arms or legs, the condition is called deep venous thrombosis or DVT. When the entire or a part of the DVT detaches and passes through the blood vessels to settle within the lungs, the condition is known as pulmonary embolism.
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As the blood clot moves through the vessels present in the lungs, it reaches the relatively small blood vessels till it lodges in a vessel that is extremely small to let it travel any further. In such a condition, the clot prevents total or partial blood circulation to that particular part of the lung. Normally, such blockages interfere with the blood circulation and prevent the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the air sacs for exhalation (a process called ventilation) in some areas of the lungs.
In the same way, as blood circulation is obstructed to some lung areas, it is also not possible to take out oxygen from those air sacs (a process called perfusion). As a result, the procedure of corresponding ventilation by the lungs with the blood circulation in the lungs is disturbed causing inequalities vis-à-vis ventilation-perfusion. Precisely speaking, these affected lung areas receive aid (ventilate), but are not able to receive blood for exchanging carbon dioxide (a waste product) with oxygen.
Provided the pulmonary embolism is considerably large and may possibly cause a very large disparity, the patient will not be able to receive sufficient amount of oxygen in his/ her bloodstream and this may, in turn, cause a severe shortness of breath. In a number of cases, the blood clots may be so big in size that the circulation of blood from the heart's right side to the lungs is wedged.
Sometimes, this may prove to be fatal and lead to instant death. In some other people, the disparity is not so great, but it still results in various symptoms, particularly when the demand for oxygen by the body goes up - for instance, while one is undertaking any work-out. Pulmonary infarction (a condition wherein the lung tissues die due to blockage in the arteries) happens rarely owing to collateral blood flow.
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Pulmonary embolism may sometimes be accompanied with an abrupt shortness of breath and chest pain. Typically, the chest pain is acute and it deteriorates when the patient inhales deeply - a condition habitually referred to as pleurisy or pleuritic pain. In such conditions, the patient may also experience cough that turns out blood-spattered saliva.
In addition, a patient with pulmonary embolism may have a number of consistent critical symptoms, such as blood pressure, respiratory rate, heart rate and saturation of oxygen, but often suffers from a high heart rate. Provided the blood clot is considerably large, it may obstruct the blood from flowing from the heart's right side, thereby blocking the flow of the blood into the lungs. In such cases, the left side of the heart will not have any blood to pump and deliver to the remaining body parts. When this occurs, it may cause a circulatory shock (collapse) and eventually lead to death.
Pulmonary embolism is frequently known as saddle embolus (the term is used because the blood clot is lodged right at the partition between the right and left pulmonary artery similar to a saddle). The oxygen saturation as well as the heart rate and blood pressure may have unpredictable effects subject to the blood clot mass (also known as clot load or clot burden).
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The usual symptoms include a raise in the blood as well as respiratory rate, while the body endeavours to make up for the poor competence of supplying oxygen to the lungs. Elevated heart rate as well as the respiratory rate make the blood flow throughout the body much faster in order to optimally distribute the amount of oxygen that is available.
It is possible to lessen the saturation of oxygen (red blood cells or erythrocytes with no oxygen molecule appended to them). When the blood vessels of a patient do not enclose sufficient amount of oxygen, he/ she may be cyanotic, wherein the skin has a bluish tinge as the red blood cells of the patient do not have adequate oxygen. People who are cyanotic may endure symptoms like debility and dizziness.
In a number of incidences, pulmonary embolus may result in unexpected death, prior to which the patient stops breathing and collapses. Eventually, they have a cardiac arrest, as their heart beat stops.
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Use of specific herbs and supplements is useful for preventing as well as treating pulmonary embolism, for instance, using capsicum (cayenne) as well as pepper aids in preventing the platelets from merging. In addition, vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant, works in proper vascular condition.
Consumption of apricot, banana, spinach plus orange juice aids in maintaining an active vascular system, in addition to keeping the blood pressure normal. Herbs like gingko biloba lower the concentration of protein fibrin, a vital factor for blood clot formation, in the bloodstream. Similarly, ginger, turmeric and bilberry help to inhibit the platelets from sticking together and develop into blood clots.
Onion and garlic are also effective in lowering fibrin content in our body, in addition to lessening the tackiness of the platelets that may result in blood clot formation. Hence, it is advisable that people who are enduring problems related to blood clots, especially in their veins, should incorporate the foods discussed here in their diet.
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Unlike in the case of several other health disorders, you are strictly advised against treating pulmonary embolism at home, even in the early stages of the disease. However, it is essential to prevent formation of additional blood clots as well as allowing deep vein thrombosis to happen, because these may eventually result in chronic pulmonary embolism.
However, there are definitely various measures which you may undertake to diminish the chances of developing a deep vein thrombosis. Some of these measures are discussed briefly below.
Exercise: It is essential to undertake specific work-outs in order to ensure the blood circulation to and from the legs. One of the things that you can do is to lift your legs in a way that your toes point in the direction of your head, enabling the calves to stretch and subsequently relax. Continue this exercise for a number of times every day, as this is particularly important if you spend much of your day in a sitting position, for instance, while you are on a long journey by car or taking long airplane flights.
If you have been suffering from any ailment or have had a surgery, try to arise from the bed at the earliest possible. The moment you are able, it is essential for you to be mobile once again. In case you are unable to get up from the bed, it is recommended that you undertake work-outs involving your legs. You may do the exercise mentioned above at intervals of an hour to ensure normal blood circulation in your legs.
Give up smoking: Smoking causes several harm, including affecting the normal blood circulation. Therefore, it is advisable that you should quit smoking and this is particularly crucial provided you are taking any medication containing estrogen, for instance, oral contraceptives.
Compression stocking: At the same time, putting on compression stocking will aid in putting off deep vein thrombosis if you have blood clotting problems.
Home remedies: There are a number of home remedies that have the aptitude to effectively put off formation of blood clots at different areas of your body. Whenever possible, use mustard oil and/ or canola oil, which have low fats, for cooking. In addition, consume sufficient amounts of asparagus, bread, Brussels sprouts, and cereals. All these foods are loaded with folate (a type of vitamin), which makes the delicate arteries supple.
In addition, consume plenty of broccoli, which encloses high dietary fiber and is thought to be an excellent food for people with vascular problems. Besides, celery also has an active constituent, which works to reduce production and secretion of a stress hormone that either constricts the blood vessels or make them thinner. Using sufficient celery ensures the optimum diameter of the blood vessels.
It is worth mentioning here that skimmed milk encloses active calcium, which is required by platelets for their functioning, however, the milk needs to be skimmed because deposits of fats on the blood vessel walls making their diameter thinner. In addition, fatty diets cause obesity and these types of diets lead to fat deposits on the blood vessels walls, which, in turn, narrow the blood vessels' diameter. Therefore, people with blood clot disorders should essentially keep away from fatty foods.
Hydrotherapy: This method of treatment involves alternative application of hot and cold packs on the painful areas. Using hydrotherapy ensures that blood circulation is constant at the place where the clot has formed.
Before concluding this discussion, it is imperative to note that it has been proved that massaging the affected areas gently alleviates the sufferings of the patient to a great extent.