Signs and Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism

The signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism (PE) are not always the same in each person, but may include:1,2

  1. Shortness of breath

  2. Chest pain; this is usually a sharp stabbing pain that may worsen when you breathe in

  3. Fainting or dizziness

  4. Coughing and/or coughing up blood

  5. Prior to PE, symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) may also occur


The risk of developing PE is highest if you:1,2

  • Have a DVT. A blood clot can form in the deep veins of the legs and travel to the lungs
  • Have had DVT or PE in the past
  • Have undergone recent surgery or hospitalization or have been inactive for a long period (including long-distance travel). Being immobile causes your blood to collect in the lower legs making it more likely to clot; being active increases the blood flow around your body
  • Have had a heart attack in the last 3 months

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis? The most common source of a clot that causes a pulmonary embolism is deep vein thrombosis, known as DVT Read more about DVT

The risk of PE can also be increased if you:1,2

  • Are over 60 years old
  • Have cancer
  • Are pregnant or have given birth in the last 6 weeks
  • Take medications such as combined hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy
  • Are obese
  • Have one or more significant medical conditions including heart disease, inflammatory disease or respiratory disease
  • Have varicose veins
  • Have a blood clotting disorder, e.g. thrombophilia
Next: How Is It Diagnosed