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This is a clog in an artery in your lung.

It can happen suddenly, even in a healthy person.

It is a serious medical condition that can be fatal.


A pulmonary embolism occurs when a tiny piece of debris travels through your bloodstream and gets stuck in an artery in your lung. In many cases, the debris is part of a blood clot that originally forms in a vein in your leg. That type of clot is called “deep vein thrombosis.” But a pulmonary embolism can also be caused by other things. An air bubble. A piece of a tumor. A loose bit of marrow from a broken bone. Any of these can travel through your blood to your lungs and cause a blockage.


Because a pulmonary embolism happens suddenly, there aren’t usually warning signs. Some people may have a sore or swollen leg if the clot is related to deep vein thrombosis, but other people have no early symptoms. A pulmonary embolism may begin with breathing problems. It may be hard for you to breathe, and you may start coughing. You may cough up blood. You may feel anxious, sweaty and light-headed. Your chest may hurt, and you may have an irregular heartbeat.


Some pulmonary embolisms can be treated with medicines to thin your blood. If your symptoms are life-threatening, you may need other options.

Your healthcare provider can create a care plan that is right for your needs.