Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a type of high blood pressure that affects the tiny blood vessels in your lungs, known as the pulmonary arteries and capillaries. It begins when the pulmonary vessels become too narrow to accommodate the amount of blood that must be pumped through the lungs. As blood flow meets with resistance, pressure builds within the vessel walls, forcing the heart to work harder to try and pump blood through the lungs. Eventually, the heart grows tired and weak and a condition known as cor-pulmonale, or right-sided heart failure, may occur.1
Will the Real PH Please Rise: Two Types of Pulmonary Hypertension
There are two types of pulmonary hypertension: pulmonary hypertension (PH) and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).Â PAH used to be called primary pulmonary hypertension while PH was called secondary hypertension. PAH occurs when the blood vessels in the lungs are directly diseased; PH is caused by another medical condition such as COPD, heart disease or blood clots.1
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include:1
As the disease worsens, even minimal activity is enough to provoke any, or all, of the above symptoms.
Because the signs and symptoms of pulmonary hypertension closely mimic those of many other health conditions, it is not easily detected during a routine physical exam.2Â If your doctor suspects pulmonary hypertension, or if PH is suspected when ruling out other conditions, she may order an ultrasound of your heart (echocardiogram). If the echocardiogram shows increased pressure in the right side of your heart, your doctor may then order a right-heart catheterization, the gold standard of PH diagnosis.1
Pulmonary hypertension is a progressive, sometimes fatal illness, for which there is no cure. However, treatment can ease the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension and lead to a better quality of life. Possible treatment options include:2
Lifestyle changes, as noted below, wonâ€™t cure pulmonary hypertension, but implementing them in your daily life may help improve symptoms related to it:2
For more information or to find a doctor who specializes in PH visit the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.
Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN