What is Pulmonary Hypertension?

Hypertension refers to high blood pressure. Pulmonary hypertension refers specifically to high blood pressure in the blood vessels leading from the heart to your lungs. Various health conditions can cause pulmonary hypertension (PH). Pulmonary hypertension must be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional.

Pulmonary hypertension can lead to life-threatening complications if left untreated. Talk to your doctor to ensure that you get the medical care you need. Click To Tweet

What is pulmonary hypertension?

Normally, the blood pressure in the arteries leading to your lungs is lower than the pressure of the arteries in the rest of your body. The blood pressure in the artery connecting the heart and lungs is typically lower because the blood doesn’t travel far. However, the pressure in these blood vessels is higher than normal for people with pulmonary hypertension.

PH gets progressively worse if left untreated; it can lead to life-threatening complications. Pulmonary hypertension can cause the arteries leading to your lungs to harden and narrow, increasing blood pressure. High blood pressure puts extra stress on your heart. The higher your blood pressure, the harder your heart must work to pump blood through your lungs. Over time, this weakens your heart muscle and can eventually cause permanent heart damage or heart failure.

What causes pulmonary hypertension?

The causes of pulmonary hypertension aren’t always clear.

PH may result from:

  • congenital heart defects
  • hereditary gene mutations
  • narrow, blocked, or damaged blood vessels in your lungs
  • sickle cell disease
  • COPD
  • emphysema
  • hypertension
  • connective tissue disease
  • liver disease
  • coronary artery disease
  • pulmonary embolus (blood clot in the lungs)
  • certain drugs including prescription diet drugs and methamphetamine

Left heart disease is the most common cause of pulmonary hypertension in the U.S.

How do you know if you have pulmonary hypertension?

Pulmonary hypertension must be diagnosed by a medical professional. However, the symptoms of PH are common to many other medical conditions, which can delay the appropriate diagnosis and treatment for people with pulmonary hypertension. Understanding the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension can help you recognize when it’s time to talk to your doctor for PH.

Initial symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include

  • fatigue
  • fainting
  • dizziness
  • light-headedness
  • difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath is the most commonly reported symptom

More advanced symptoms include

  • chest pain
  • palpitations (your heartbeat is noticeably stronger, faster, or irregular)
  • swelling (edema) in the ankles, legs, or abdominal region
  • blue color in lips or skin

Preventing and treating pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension can’t be cured. Treating PH focuses on managing the symptoms. There are different treatments for PH because there are different causes for the conditions. Treatment options include surgery, medication in various forms (inhaled, injected, oral), diuretics, and oxygen therapy.

Making healthy lifestyle choices can lower your risk for certain types of pulmonary hypertension. Managing your blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding illegal drugs such as cocaine, and not smoking cigarettes may help lower your risk for PH.

Start making healthy lifestyle choices now. It’s never too early, and it’s never too late to make healthy changes in your life.

If you’re concerned about pulmonary hypertension, or if you have questions about PH, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. Your doctor can educate you about the condition and may refer you to a specialist. Request an appointment with a doctor in Northwest Arkansas today.