What is Pulmonary Hypertension?
Pulmonary hypertension is a rare type of high blood pressure that affects the lungs and the heart. There are many different types of pulmonary hypertension based on which arteries are affected. Though the condition is not curable, people can improve their symptoms and lead a higher quality of life with the right treatment.
What Happens with Pulmonary Hypertension?
Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the arteries in your lungs and right side of your heart become narrowed or blocked. This makes it more difficult for blood to flow freely through the arteries and to the lungs. As blood pressure increases, it puts additional stress on the heart, causing it to weaken and fail.
The symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pressure or pain
- Heart palpitations
Who is at Risk for Pulmonary Hypertension?
Many factors can increase the risk for developing pulmonary hypertension, including:
- Being overweight
- Having a family history of the disease
- Using illegal drugs
- Taking appetite suppressants
- Having certain medical conditions, such as gene mutations, sleep apnea, obstructions and congenital heart diseases
Treatment for Pulmonary Hypertension
Once pulmonary hypertension is diagnosed by a medical professional, treatment for the condition can begin. Pulmonary hypertension cannot be cured, but it can be successfully managed. Treatment is aimed at improving symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease.
Medications are the first line of defense and include blood vessel dilators, anticoagulants and diuretics. Doctors use these medications to treat symptoms and address the underlying cause of the condition. In some cases, surgery is needed to create a new opening in the heart to relieve pressure.
Also, lifestyle changes remain important. Your doctor will probably recommend not smoking, staying active and getting enough rest at night. You will also need to see your doctor regularly, take your medications as prescribed and get all appropriate vaccinations.
Living with pulmonary hypertension is difficult for patients and families. For additional support, consider working with a pulmonary program. These programs educate people on their condition and help them make informed decisions for their health.