Pulmonary Hypertension

What is Pulmonary Hypertension?

Pulmonary hypertension occurs when there is an increase in pressure in the vessels going from the right side of the heart to the lungs. This is normally a low-pressure system; therefore, the muscles of the right heart and the vessels are not ready for such high pressure. There are different causes of pulmonary hypertension, but in the United States, the main reason is left heard disease. Other chronic conditions include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or sickle cell disease, HIV, a congenital heart defect and chronic kidney failure

To learn more about how blood flow goes from the heart to the lungs click here

What are the risk factors for Pulmonary Hypertension?

  • Exposure to silica or asbestos 
  • Schistosomiasis infections (tapeworms) 
  • Family history of blood clots
  • Smoking
  • Chemotherapy medications

What are the symptoms of Pulmonary Hypertension?

Most patients have symptoms for years before getting diagnosed since the symptoms are very general

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Lightheadedness¬†
  • Swelling of abdomen legs or feet
  • Shortness of breath¬†
  • Wheezing¬†

What are the complications of Pulmonary Hypertension?

  • Right-sided heart enlargement and heart failure (cor pulmonale): this is the main complications from pulmonary hypertension. Since there is an  increase in pressure on the right side of the heart, the heart has to work harder and starts thickening its walls to pump the blood, which leads to heart failure
  • For more complications please follow this link

How is Pulmonary Hypertension diagnosed?

Your health care professional is going to evaluate your risk factors as well as perform a physical exam. Your blood oxygen level is going to be checked by placing a device on your finger. Other tests such as pulmonary function test, cardiac MRI, chest x-ray, EKG, and echocardiogram are going to be sent to evaluate how your heart is functioning. A blood test such as brain natriuretic peptide can be sent to check for the strain on your heart as well as to monitor how well you are responding to treatment.

How is Pulmonary Hypertension treated?

Your healthcare provider is going to start by recommending lifestyle modifications such as quitting smoking or drinking, as well as increasing your physical activity and a healthy diet. Different medications to control symptoms as well as to treat underlying conditions can be ordered. For more information about these medications click here

The best way to prevent getting pulmonary hypertension or avoiding the progression of it is to control your underlying conditions such as hypertension or COPD. Try to avoid traveling to high altitude places since these can worsen the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension. Also, avoid sitting in a hot tub or sauna since these lower your blood pressure and can cause you to faint. 

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