Pulmonary hypertension is a blood vessel disorder that affects the lungs. With pulmonary hypertension, the pressure in the pulmonary artery (the blood vessel that leads from the heart to the lungs) rises above normal levels. This extra pressure causes symptoms and may be life-threatening.
There are really two different kinds of pulmonary hypertension, each with its own explanation:
In primary pulmonary hypertension, the cause of the disease; the cause is unknown. This kind of pulmonary hypertension is very rare.
In secondary pulmonary hypertension, there is an underlying disease which is causing the pulmonary hypertension.
Some of the underlying diseases that can cause pulmonary hypertension are:
- COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) — this is the most common cause
- pulmonary fibrosis
- cystic fibrosis
- CREST syndrome
- systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- some congenital heart diseases
- chronic pulmonary thromboembolism (old blood clots in the pulmonary artery)
Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include:
- feeling short of breath
- chest pain
- dizzy spells, fainting (passing out)
If you have these symptoms, or if you think you have pulmonary hypertension, see your doctor. Your symptoms could be caused by pulmonary hypertension, or they could be caused by another disease; only a doctor can tell.
Over time, the increased pressure damages the large and small pulmonary arteries. The damaged arteries are less able to absorb oxygen, so a person's oxygen level may drop. The right side of the heart will have to work harder than usual to pump blood. This can lead to a condition called Cor pulmonale, where the right ventricle of the heart becomes thick and enlarged. Cor pulmonale can lead to heart failure.
There are several medicines used to treat pulmonary hypertension. Some are taken as pills, and some are injected. For people whose blood oxygen levels are low, doctor may prescribe supplemental oxygen. Pulmonary hypertension may also be treated by a single or double lung transplant. In people who have secondary pulmonary hypertension, doctors will also treat the underlying disease.1092