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What are the symptoms of pulmonary embolism?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

The symptoms of pulmonary embolism depend on a number of factors, including the size of the blockage, how much blood flow to the lung is blocked, and your general state of health. You may not experience any symptoms of pulmonary embolism if you have it. However, the following major symptoms indicate the condition: trouble breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing (especially if coughing brings up blood), and irregular heartbeat (fast, slow, off-rhythm). Other symptoms that may occur: unusual sweating, clammy skin, leg swelling, bluish-colored skin, dizziness, fainting, and weak pulse. If you experience these symptoms, you should seek medical attention right away.

If you or someone you know has a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or is at risk for it, call 911 immediately if these symptoms of pulmonary embolism occur:

  • chest pain on one side, especially when inhaling deeply
  • increased heart rate or respiration
  • sudden cough or coughing up blood
  • wheezing, difficulty breathing
  • fainting, light-headedness, dizziness, or loss of consciousness
  • sudden drop in blood pressure
  • cold, clammy skin or sweating
  • anxiety

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.