Dyspnea could signal the presence of life-threatening blood clot

British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots

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Blood clots can spur on serious complications if they don’t dissolve naturally, including heart attacks and strokes. While the gel-like clumps usually develop in veins and arteries, this doesn’t stop them from travelling to other parts of your body. It’s crucial to identify the harmful clots as soon as possible which makes knowing symptoms front and centre.

While blood clotting can be necessary to stop bleeding once your blood vessel gets injured, clots that have formed without an obvious reason can be dangerous.

In fact, harmful clots like this need to be treated “quickly” due to their “life-threatening” nature, the NHS warns.

One of the key symptoms of a dangerous blood clot in your system is dyspnea.

Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, describes an intense tightening of your chest and difficulty breathing.

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This red flag sign tends to come on suddenly and makes you feel like you’re suffocating.

The main condition characterised by dyspnea is pulmonary embolism, which describes a blockage of one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs.

Triggered by a pesky clot that travelled to your lungs from deep veins, pulmonary embolism symptoms can vary greatly.

The main factors in symptom onset are how much is your lung involved, the size of the gel-like clump and underlying health problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Dyspnea triggered by this condition always gets worse with exertion and may come on gradually or suddenly.

According to the Mayo Clinic, other warning signs of pulmonary embolism include:

  • Chest pain (you may feel like you’re having a heart attack)
  • Cough (it may produce bloody or blood-streaked phlegm)
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Leg pain or swelling, or both, usually in the calf caused by a deep vein thrombosis
  • Clammy or discoloured skin (cyanosis).

The NHS recommends seeking “immediate medical attention” if you have pain, swelling and tenderness in your leg and develop dyspnea and chest pain.

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Dr Karlyn Martin told American Heart Association: “Unfortunately, pulmonary embolism can strike people at all stages of life, from the young and healthy to the older and not as healthy.

“I think if someone had chest pain, they immediately think, ‘Heart attack!’ and go to the hospital.

“But they don’t similarly think, ‘Oh, I could have a pulmonary embolism! I should go to the hospital right away’.

“So, it’s not infrequently that we have patients who had symptoms for days to weeks even before going to the hospital to find out what’s wrong.”

However, it’s important to treat this serious condition as soon as possible, the NHS reminds.

How to prevent blood clots

From drinking plenty of water to exercise, there are many simple lifestyle tweaks that could reduce your risk of the gel-like clumps.

The health service advises the following:

  • Stay active – taking regular walks can help
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration – you’re more likely to get a clot if you’re dehydrated
  • Try to lose weight if you’re overweight
  • Wear flight stockings or flight socks to improve your blood flow on long flights.

“If you’re at a high risk of blood clots – for example, you’re in hospital – follow the advice of your care team about preventing clots,” the health body adds.

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