What is pulmonary hypertension?

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What is pulmonary hypertension?

Pulmonary hypertension is caused by increased blood pressure in the vessels that transports blood from the heart to the lungs.

Blood is transported from the right ventricle through the pulmonary arteries to the lungs, oxygenated and then returned to the heart to be transported through the systemic circulation throughout the body.

Unlike systemic blood pressure (the force by which the heart drives blood to the body’s vessels), the pressure in the lungs is low.

High blood pressure on the pulmonary arteries and on the right heart results in permanent damage to both the pulmonary arteries and the right heart.

What are the symptoms?

In the early stages of the disease the symptoms may be mild and similar to those seen in other diseases. This results in a delayed diagnosis of the disease.

Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath, initially in the effort and later at rest
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Tachycardia or palpitations

While in late stages of the disease some of the symptoms that can occur:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Syncope
  • Angina pectoris
  • Lower extremity edema and ascites

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosing pulmonary hypertension is often difficult and may require several tests to fully document and establish the cause.

After the initial examination, clinical suspicion of the condition may be raised. Then a basic cardiac examination includes electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, chest x-ray. Other examinations that may be required are right heart catheterization, chest computed tomography, ventilation/perfusion scintigraphy, functional lung control, cardiopulmonary stress test, and laboratory exams.

What is the treatment?

There is no known cure that fully treats pulmonary hypertension.

Depending on the cause of pulmonary hypertension the treatment may be different.

Treatment can help improve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

In cases where pulmonary hypertension is caused by heart or lung disease, the underlying disease must be treated.

Various classes of drugs have been tested for pulmonary arterial hypertension and have shown a significant improvement in the prognosis of the disease.