Pulmonary Hypertension Overview
Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects the right side of your heart and the arteries in the lungs. These symptoms may begin small and will progress overtime, and in some cases may even be considered fatal. In some cases of pulmonary hypertension, there is no cure, but your physician will be able to treat your symptoms and help you have a better quality of life.
Pulmonary Hypertension Symptoms
There may be months or years that pass before symptoms of your pulmonary hypertension are evident. As the disease gets worse, your symptoms will also get worse too. Some symptoms that you may notice are racing pulse, blue color to your lips or skin, chest pain, swelling in your ankles or legs, dizziness, fatigue, or shortness of breath.
Pulmonary Hypertension Causes
Pulmonary hypertension is divided into five main groups, in which their cause is the reason for classification.
- Group 1 is classified as the Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, which can be caused by a few different reasons. In most cases, the cause is unknown. However, there is also a specific gene that can cause this. If there are heart abnormalities at birth, or other conditions, such as lupus, liver disease, or Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIV), this may be another cause. The last cause for this type is medications, which may be illegal or certain diet drugs.
- Group 2 is classified as Pulmonary Hypertension cause by left-sided heart disease. This is caused by failure of the left lower heart chamber or left-sided valvular heart disease.
- Group 3 is Pulmonary Hypertension caused by lung disease. This is caused by diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, sleep apnea, or people who have a long-term exposure to high altitudes.
- Group 4 is Pulmonary Hypertension caused by chronic blood clots.
- Group 5 is Pulmonary Hypertension associated with other conditions that have unclear reasons why the pulmonary hypertension occurs. This includes: blood disorders, metabolic disorders, tumors that press on the pulmonary arteries, or disorders that cause problems through several various organs.
Pulmonary Hypertension Risk Factors
Pulmonary hypertension is most common in people who: are a young adult, overweight, take certain diet pills, use illegal drugs, have a family history of the disease, or have an existing risk.
Pulmonary Hypertension Complications
Pulmonary hypertension can be the cause of various other health problems, most of which are problems that are found in the heart. Pulmonary hypertension can be the cause of bleeding in the lungs, which can cause you to cough up blood, which can be fatal. Irregular heartbeats can also cause dizziness or fainting. Blood clots are also more likely to form in your lungs, which mean you could have even more health problems. These can be extremely dangerous. Heart failure is a serious complication of pulmonary hypertension as well.
Pulmonary Hypertension Diagnosis
Diagnosis usually does not happen until later. In the beginning, you do not feel or see any evident symptoms. It is difficult to properly diagnose pulmonary hypertension even when symptoms progress. It is likely that it will be misdiagnosed as another heart or lung condition. To properly diagnose pulmonary hypertension, your physician will begin with a basic physical examination and will ask questions about your health history and symptoms. The physician may then recommend a series of tests to make the proper diagnosis.
An echocardiogram may be recommended to measure the pressure in your pulmonary arteries. In some cases, this may be done while you are exercising to see how the heart does under pressure. A chest x-ray may help to see the images of your heart, lung, and chest. This x-ray is important in helping to diagnose what else may be happening. An electrocardiogram or a right heart catherization are some other heart tests that may be recommended to see what else is going on.
Other imaging tests include a computerized tomography (CT) scan or an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to check more into the heart and lungs. This will provide your physician with a clearer picture of what exactly is going on. A pulmonary function test will see how much air your lungs can hold. You may be asked to also complete a sleep test to watch for oxygen levels and other factors while you sleep. In more extreme cases, your physician may ask for an open-lung biopsy, where they will remove a small sample from your lungs to check for a secondary cause of pulmonary hypertension. While a true diagnosis may be difficult, it is important to try.
Pulmonary Hypertension Treatments
Pulmonary hypertension is not able to be cured, but your physician can help to make your symptoms more manageable. When this condition is brought on by another diagnosable condition, then your physician will also need to treat that condition. There are a series of medications that will help to make you feel better, including: a blood vessel dilator, diuretics, anticoagulants, and a variety of others. You will want to speak with your physician after a proper diagnosis to see what medication will be right for you and your symptoms.
In more extreme cases, your physician may recommend surgery. If your medications are not working, then you may need an open-heart surgery or even a lung or heart transplant.
There are also many home and lifestyle changes that should be made in addition to treatments. You should be living as healthy and as active as possible. Be sure to get plenty of rest, eat well, and exercise properly. If you are a smoker, then you will need to quit smoking immediately. If you have not been able to quit smoking in the past, then you should be ready to speak with your physician and gather a plan to quit with accountability. You will want to avoid pregnancy and birth control pills too. If you live or plan on traveling to a high altitude, then you will want to plan accordingly to move to a lower altitude. You should also be getting vaccinated. Ask for support from friends or family, and schedule regular follow ups with your physician.