About the disease
Pulmonary hypertension is a condition whereby a person has high blood pressure in the arteries which connect heart with the lungs. This condition develops when the arteries of the lungs become blocked or narrowed for some reason. As a result, blood is unable to flow freely through them and therefore blood pressure starts to raise. Also, heart needs to work harder now to be able to pump the blood through those narrowed arteries in the lungs. The risk of developing heart failure at some point of this condition increases.
According to WebMD, pulmonary hypertension can develop an an idiopathic condition, meaning that the doctors cannot identify the exact cause of high blood pressure in this particular patient or pulmonary hypertension can develop as a result other conditions which led to narrowing of lung arteries. In the first case, it has been suggested that some gene mutation led to development of pulmonary hypertension. In other cases, such conditions as blood clots, HIV, congestive heart failure, were the primary conditions which led to blockage of lung arteries. Certain autoimmune conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis affect the lungs as well. Consumption of narcotic drugs, such as cocaine, can adversely damage the lungs as well. Some people are born with heart defects or develop serious lung diseases during their lifetime, which in turn leads to development of pulmonary hypertension. People who smoke a lot are at increased risk of developing pulmonary hypertension as they have other precipitating factors which put them in the risk group.
According to WebMD, this condition develops slowly and some time may pass before a person notices any symptoms. The first manifestation of pulmonary hypertension is usually shortness of breath.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Swelling in the extremities
- Loss of consciousness
- During a general examination the doctor will examine the medical history of the patient and will ask the patient if he/she had any symptoms listed above. The doctor will also listen to the lungs to determine if there are any abnormalities.
- A chest X-ray can show if pulmonary arteries are enlarged or if there is blockage.
- A CT scan is used for the same purpose, which is to visualise the pulmonary arteries. It can also rule out other condition which can be causing similar symptoms.
- A blood test is used if there is suspicion that a person has an infection, HIV or some autoimmune condition which can be causing similar symptoms.
- ECG and echocardiogram are used to examine the heart and also determine if there are any abnormalities.
- Right heart catheterization is used for definitive diagnosis and it can completely clear the picture if the person does have pulmonary hypertension. The doctor uses catheter to examine the right part of the heart and also monitor the pressure from this part of the heart which pumps the blood to the lungs.
- Conservative treatment uses different types of drugs used to normalize the work of heart and also open the blocked lung arteries.
- If the cause of pulmonary hypertension has been identified, that condition needs to be treated as well.
- If a person has serious difficulty breathing, he/she can be prescribed oxygen therapy.
- A lung transplant is used in exceptionally severe cases when the breathing capacity is very low.