9 Warning Signs of Pulmonary Embolism

9 Warning Signs of a Pulmonary Embolism

In this post, I’m going to show you the nine warning signs of pulmonary embolism.

But first… let’s take a look at what is pulmonary embolism?

What is Pulmonary Embolism?

Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a blood clot (often due to deep vein thrombosis) that passes through the circulatory system stops in the pulmonary vessels.

This prevents the blood from flowing normally to your lungs.

And it can be a life-threatening frightening condition that requires urgent and immediate care.

Nevertheless, immediate treatment reduces the risk of death.

The nine warning signs of pulmonary embolism (PE)

#1. Shortness of breath

The first warning sign is shortness of breath, which is due to a lack of oxygen in the body.

A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot obstructs circulation in your lungs.

That restricts the amount of oxygen that can reach your lungs and be delivered to other parts of your body.

So if you have any shortness of breath, especially when it comes on suddenly, it should be checked out right away.

#2. Chest pain

The second warning sign is sudden and unexplained chest pain or discomfort.

Pulmonary embolism can cause a sudden sharp, stabbing chest pain that usually occurs in the center of your chest.

The pain is often worse when you take a deep breath, cough, or laugh. But it can also occur at rest.

So note the time and circumstances in which chest pain occurs and consult with a doctor right away if this happens to you.

#3. Coughing up blood

The next warning sign of pulmonary embolism is coughing up blood, which you could mistake for a simple case of bronchitis.

But it’s actually not something that you should ignore because it can be a sign that the condition has worsened, and there may be more serious symptoms to come.

#4. Rapid or irregular heartbeat

The fourth sign that you can’t ignore is a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

This usually occurs because the pulmonary embolism has reduced the amount of oxygen in your body.

But it can also signal that there is less blood flow to your heart. And this may lead to a life-threatening heart attack.

So if you notice this symptom, get to the doctor right away.

#5. Discolored skin

The fifth sign of the condition is discolored skin, which usually occurs right before you go into shock.

The skin typically turns blue or gray because there isn’t enough oxygen getting to all parts of your body.

And this usually signals that the pulmonary embolism has worsened, and you are suffering from a lack of oxygen in your blood.

#6. Severe or unexplained pain in the lower leg

Sudden and severe pain in the lower leg is a warning sign of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which can ultimately lead to pulmonary embolism.

This is because such pain may indicate that there is a blood clot in your leg or pelvis that has migrated to the lung.

It’s important that you consult with your doctor if this happens to you.

#7. Low blood pressure

When you have a pulmonary embolism, it will reduce the amount of blood and oxygen throughout your body.

This can lead to very low blood pressure, which doesn’t always cause symptoms in its own right but could indicate that there is a serious underlying medical condition present like pulmonary embolism.

#8 Excessive sweating

The eighth warning sign of pulmonary embolism is excessive sweating.

This can occur because your body is going into shock and may be losing its ability to control its own temperature.

The loss of body heat can cause you to feel overly warm and start to sweat.

So if you notice this, you should seek medical attention immediately.

This is particularly important if your fever exceeds 100°F (37.7°C).

#9. Lightheadedness or dizziness

The final warning sign of pulmonary embolism is lightheadedness or dizziness.

This can be due to a lack of oxygen in your body that is affecting your brain’s ability to function properly.

If you experience this for no apparent reason, get to the doctor right away.

It’s important to remember that pulmonary embolism is a serious condition and not something to play around with.

But there are plenty of warning signs so if you notice any of them, get yourself checked out immediately.

Who is most at risk for pulmonary embolism?

The following factors increase your risk of developing pulmonary embolism (PE):

  • History of deep vein thrombosis
  • Obesity
  • Have cancer or a history of cancer
  • People who are sitting on bed rest for a prolonged period of time
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Being above the age of 60 
  • Stroke
  • Certain genetic conditions
  • Taking birth control medication (It increases levels of clotting factors in the blood)
  • History of congestive heart failure, chronic heart disease, or recent myocardial infarction
  • Pregnancy


The best way to protect yourself from a life-threatening pulmonary embolism includes the following: 

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Avoid the intake of excess alcohol and caffeine.
  • Regular exercise
  • Stretching every 30 minutes, if you are sitting for long periods of time
  • Your doctor might prescribe anticoagulants to prevent your blood from forming clots.
  • Maintain a healthy weight