What is Pulmonary Hypertension?
Is pulmonary hypertension different than high blood pressure? YES
Typically “blood pressure,” “high blood pressure” and “hypertension” refer to the systemic pressure throughout your body.
Systemic blood pressure measures the pressure in your brachial artery (found in your arm) while the left side of the heart pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs into the rest of your body. It’s measured with a traditional arm cuff.
Pulmonary hypertension (or PHT) is high blood pressure that occurs in the arteries in the lungs. It is a different measurement altogether from systemic blood pressure. It reflects the pressure the heart must exert to pump blood from the heart through the arteries of the lungs.
Pulmonary blood pressure focuses on the pressure of blood flow in your lungs: The right side of the heart receives the oxygen-emptied blood as it returns from the body and pumps this blood from the right side of the heart into the blood vessels of the lungs, where the blood gathers oxygen again. From there, it leaves the lungs and enters the left side of the heart to carry the oxygen-rich blood to the body again.
The problem of pulmonary hypertension (PHT): The blood vessels that supply the lungs can also constrict and their walls may thicken, so they can’t carry as much blood. As with a kinked garden hose, pressure builds up and backs up. The heart works harder, trying to force the blood through. If the pressure is high enough, eventually the heart can’t keep up, and less blood can circulate through the lungs to pick up oxygen
Symptoms of PHT: fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath. Early on, you may think you’re simply “out of shape” because general fatigue and tiredness are often the first symptoms. I t is more noticeable if you experience breathing difficulty, dizziness or even fainting spells that some patients report. As the condition progresses, you may begin to notice swelling in the ankles or legs, bluish discoloration of the lips and skin, and chest pains. These later symptoms indicate your body is not circulating enough oxygen-filled blood from your lungs which is a definite health problem that needs treatment.
Because these symptoms increase gradually, patients may not recognize them. Furthermore, most people do not seek medical help if they mistakenly believe they are simply “out of shape.”
There are two different types of pulmonary hypertension (PHT): primary pulmonary hypertension and secondary pulmonary hypertension
If a pre-existing disease triggered the PHT, doctors call it secondary PHT. That’s because it’s secondary to another problem, such as a heart or lung disorder
How is pulmonary hypertension treated? Once PHT has been diagnosed, medical therapy is often needed. Regularly follow up with a cardiologist or pulmonologist trained in caring for patients with PHT. If you’ve begun medical treatment for PHT, follow your medical treatment plan very strictly.
Never assume you can alter the dose or frequency of any of your medicines without your physician’s approval. Not following your healthcare team’s instructions can be extremely dangerous. Medical therapy has significantly improved the outlook for most PHT patients, but it doesn’t “cure” PHT.
Special precautions for those with PHT: You can have a diagnosis of PHT and live an active, fulfilling life. Still, you should consider certain measures and precautions. PHT is a lifelong illness that can be made worse by a variety of factors, such as: smoking, going to high altitude places, or engaging in exercise and physically demanding activities
Taking medications: Most medications for colds, flus and other medical conditions are safe for people with PHT.
Pregnancy and childbirth: Pregnancy and delivery produce dramatic changes that can seriously endanger your life. Thus, avoid pregnancy by practicing a safe and effective method of contraception. Avoid oral contraceptives as they can aggravate PHT. The most effective form of contraception for people with significant PHT is surgical sterilization.