Overview of Embolism

Embolism can be caused by a blood clot or even an air bubble. Basically, the introduction of a foreign body can cause an embolism. If the blood supply to any major organ gets disrupted, you may face a life-threatening situation. 

An embolism is a condition that occurs due to the blockage in the arteries by the formation of blood clots. These blood clots travel through the bloodstream and get stuck in the narrow blood vessels. Depending upon the size of the blood clot, the blood supply may get limited or stopped altogether. 

Signs and Symptoms of Embolism

The symptoms of embolism vary from type to type. 

Symptoms in case of stroke are: 

  • Drooping of the face 
  • Weakness or numbness in one arm 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Difficulty in understanding someone else’s speech 

The symptoms for Pulmonary speech include: 

  • Sharp pain in the chest 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Feeling faint or dizzy 
  • Coughing up blood 
  • Passing out 

Types of Embolism

Generally, there are two most common types of embolism. 

  • Stroke - in this type of embolism (i.e. stroke), the blood supply to the brain is cut off. 
  • Pulmonary Embolism - in this type of embolism, a blockage occurs in the artery which is responsible for carrying blood to and from the heart to the lungs.

Some people are affected by gas embolism and saddle embolism. 


Causes of Embolism

Usually, an embolism occurs when a foreign body is introduced into the blood. The foreign bodies that cause embolism are called Emboli. 

Some common causes of embolism are: 

  • Blood Clots - naturally our body has clotting agents that help prevent excessive blood flow due to some injury. Conditions like obesity, heart disease, cancer, and sometimes pregnancy can cause blood clots to form even inside the veins when there’s no bleeding.

A blood clot can travel before getting stuck and blocking the blood supply to any organ or limb. 

  • Fats - fats particle forms as a result of long bone surgery or due to severe burns and can also cause blockages in arteries.  

  • Air-entrapped air can cause air bubbles or gas in the bloodstream. Usually scuba divers face this type of embolism. 

  • Cholesterol - people who already are suffering from atherosclerosis - a condition in which veins get narrow due to cholesterol, small pieces of cholesterol can break away and settle in the bloodstream causing blockages. 

  • Amniotic Fluid - this is, however, a rare case of embolism in which the amniotic fluid ( the fluid responsible for protecting the baby inside the womb) leaks into the mother’s blood vessel causing a blockage. 


Risk Factors of Embolism

Some possible risk factors for embolism are: 

  • Diabetes 
  • Cancer - certain cancers like the brain cancer, ovary, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, stomach cancer, etc. increase the risk of blood clotting. Chemotherapy makes one more vulnerable to embolism.  
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis - DVT or deep vein thrombosis is the leading cause of pulmonary embolism. 
  • Atrial Fibrillation 
  • Advanced age 
  •  Underlying heart diseases - having heart diseases also increase the risk of having a pulmonary embolism. 
  • Surgery - surgeries are one of the leading causes of clot formation in bloodstreams. 
  • Prolonged bed rest - confined to bed for a longer duration of bed can also disrupt blood flow to various organs or limbs. 
  • Sitting in a cramped position can induce embolism.
  • Obesity 

Complications of Embolism 


  • Amputation 
  • Low levels of oxygen restricting your blood flow 
  • Increase in stroke chances
  • Dysfunction of organ or organ failure 
  • High risk of heart attack



Some tips to stay on the safe side involve: 

  • Eating a healthy diet 
  • Limiting the amount of salt 
  • Maintaining a healthy BMI 
  • Quit smoking 
  • Regular  exercise 


Treatment of Embolism | When to Consult a Doctor

The treatment of embolism depends upon: 

  • Cause of the blockage 
  • Size of the blockage 
  • Location of the blockage 

Embolism can be removed through surgery or medication. For the surgical procedures, a procedure called “Embolectomy” is carried out. Anticoagulant medication is generally used to treat embolism through medication. 

In case of any concerning signs and symptoms, consult a certified pulmonologist as soon as possible.