Pulmonary Hypertension - The Misunderstood Form of High Blood Pressure

Learn about this often misunderstood form of high blood pressure

High blood pressure comes in many different forms with just as many different causes. A misunderstood form of high blood pressure is pulmonary hypertension. This condition causes blood pressure to be dangerously high in the arteries of your lung and makes the right side of your heart work harder. Learn the causes, symptoms, and treatments for pulmonary high blood pressure and improve your health.

Understanding the Causes of Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a serious condition. It happens when the arteries in your lungs become narrow. Because they narrow, they can't carry as much blood as they should and your heart has to work harder to get the blood through. This extra work is what causes your blood pressure to rise.

If pulmonary hypertension goes untreated, the right side of your heart eventually enlarges and the risk of heart failure increases.

What Causes Pulmonary Hypertension?

Just as with blood pressure in general, many different things can cause pulmonary hypertension. Some of the most common causes are autoimmune diseases that cause damage to the lungs like rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. Birth defects of the heart, including heart valve diseases, also cause pulmonary hypertension.

More common causes of this type of high blood pressure are some harmful diet medications and obstructive sleep apnea. Other people at risk for pulmonary hypertension are those that have any condition that causes low oxygen levels in the blood, people with HIV, or those that have a history of blood clots in their lungs.

Symptoms of Pulmonary Hypertension

The first symptom that's usually also the most noticeable is getting winded easily. Shortness of breath and dizziness are the two most common symptoms for this form of high blood pressure. You may also have a notice your heart beating very fast.

Everyone has shortness of breath and lightheadedness sometimes. But people with pulmonary hypertension have it with very little physical exertion and later, even when they're resting.

You may also notice swelling in your legs or ankles, chest pain, the feeling of pressure in your chest, fainting spells, excessive tiredness and weakness, and a bluish tint to your lips.

If you have any of these symptoms, it's important that you talk with your doctor. Your doctor can easily test you for pulmonary hypertension by checking for abnormal heart sounds and enlarged veins in your neck. He will also check for swelling in your legs and ankles as well your spleen.

When your doctor suspects you may be at risk for pulmonary hypertension, he may run further tests including a chest x-ray, a CT scan of your chest, and ECG, a pulmonary arteriogram and pulmonary function tests.

Treatment for Pulmonary Hypertension

Unfortunately, there isn't a cure or treatment for this condition. Your doctor will monitor your condition to help you control the symptoms. If medical conditions like sleep apnea, heart valve problems, or lung conditions are causing your hypertension, your doctor will treat for these conditions in hopes of helping the pulmonary hypertension.

Other ways you can help lessen the symptoms of your pulmonary hypertension are to avoid pregnancy, avoid traveling to high altitudes where the oxygen is thinner, not participating in strenuous activities or heavy lifting, and not smoking. It's also important for pulmonary hypertension patients to have a yearly flu and pneumonia vaccine.

By following your doctor's orders, taking prescription medication as directed, and following the tips listed above, you can lessen the effects of your pulmonary hypertension.

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