Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) occurs when the pressure in the blood vessels between the lungs and the heart is too high. PH causes the arteries in the lung to narrow and results in reduced blood flow to the lungs and lower levels of oxygen in the blood. Different classifications of PH exist, but all cause restricted blood flow causing your heart to work harder than it should.
In the early stages of PH, symptoms may not be present. As the condition worsens, you may become short of breath easily, feel tired or lightheaded, develop swelling in your feet and ankles and experience chest pain or heart palpitations as the oxygen level in your blood lessens.
Diagnosis of PH is based upon your symptoms, current health condition and risk factors. PH can be familial or caused by other health conditions. If PH is suspected, an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) will be ordered. If the pressure in the right side of your heart is elevated on the echocardiogram, your physician may send you to a Cardiologist for a more advanced test called a cardiac catheterization that more accurately measures the pressure in the right side of your heart.
Treatment for PH is based upon your specific health condition and test results but may include oral and/or inhaled medication to help open your blood vessels to improve blood flow. Diuretics (medications that help your body remove water) may also be used to decrease fluid buildup and strain on your heart. Oxygen therapy is also used for those with low levels of oxygen in the blood. No cure exists for PH, but medical management is possible in most cases.