Pulmonary hypertension (PH) occurs when there is increased pressure in the pulmonary arteries. Pulmonary arteries are responsible for the blood receiving oxygen from the lungs before it is pumped to the rest of the body. This increased pressure causes the heart to work hard than normal. Eventually the heart is unable to pump blood to the lungs to receive oxygen, which results in heart failure.
Some cases of PH have no known cause, but PH can be caused by a number of things, including:
- Illegal drug use, such as cocaine
- Other diseases and conditions such as COPD
- Blood clots in the lungs
Signs and symptoms of PH include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Racing heartbeat
As the disease progresses, symptoms may get worse and include swelling in the legs and ankles, fainting, and a bluish tinge on the lips and the skin.
Diagnosing PH is difficult due to its slow progression. However, if you think you have PH, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, other medical conditions you have and your family medical history. To diagnose PH, your doctor will perform a series of tests to confirm diagnosis and severity of the disease. Tests may also be performed to determine the underlying cause of the PH to help treat that issue as well.
There is no cure for PH, but lifestyle changes and medication, among other things, can improve quality of life and slow the progression of the disease. Treatment will depend on the type of PH you have.