Pulmonary Hypertension Overview
Pulmonary hypertension describes a type of high blood pressure that affects only the arteries of your lungs and the right side of your heart. A rare lung disease, pulmonary hypertension develops when tiny blood vessels in your lungs become narrowed, blocked or damaged, making it hard for blood to flow through your lungs. The resulting pressure causes the heart’s lower right chamber (right ventricle) to work harder and eventually weaken.
Pulmonary hypertension is a serious and sometimes fatal illness without a cure. Your WellStar physician can prescribe treatments designed to lessen symptoms and improve your quality of life.
In most cases, the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension develop gradually. They may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Racing pulse
- Heart palpitations
- Fainting spells
In the early stages, the symptoms may not become noticeable for months or even years. As the disease progresses, you may experience a bluish color to your lips and skin (cyanosis) or swelling (edema) in your ankles, legs and abdomen.
Pulmonary hypertension may affect anyone, although variations of the disease with known causes typically affect older adults. Pulmonary hypertension of unknown origins (idiopathic pulmonary hypertension) is more common in younger people. It is as much as three times more likely in women than in men. Several other factors make you more likely to develop pulmonary hypertension as well. These include:
- Family history of the disease
- Personal history of heart, lung, liver diseases, blood clots or HIV infection
- Excessive use of certain diet medications or drugs, such as cocaine