Introduction to pulmonary hypertension:
Did you know that all the blood that reaches back from your body to the heart has to pass once through your lungs before it gets pumped again? This means your lungs handle as much volume of your blood as your whole body in a given time. When arteries that take this unoxygenated blood received from the rest of your body to your lungs start failing, it causes the flow to reduce and the pressure to increase inside the arteries against which your right heart has to pump. The extra effort slowly starts affecting your heart muscles as well. In some people, this can keep getting worse and can become dangerous. However, in most cases, treatment can help in reducing discomfort.
What causes pulmonary hypertension?
Just like in the case of your blood pressure, factors causing pulmonary hypertension may be multiple, including genetics. In many cases, it is hard to pinpoint the exact cause and doctors call it idiopathic pulmonary hypertension. However, the presence of other conditions can also lead to pulmonary hypertension. These include:
How is pulmonary hypertension classified?
Pulmonary Hypertension is divided into 5 groups:
Who is most at risk of developing pulmonary hypertension?
What are the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension?
When pulmonary hypertension begins, it may not show any symptoms. As it progresses, it starts affecting your ability to exercise or do daily activities. Eventually, it may worsen to the point where breathing becomes difficult at rest as well. In more advanced cases, other symptoms include:
Symptoms may be classified based on the severity, based on WHO’s functional classes:
What are the complications that can come from pulmonary hypertension?
How is pulmonary hypertension diagnosed?
Pulmonary hypertension is difficult to detect early because either it has fewer symptoms when it starts or it mimics symptoms of other heart and lung conditions. Your doctor will perform a physical examination on you and may also ask you for some additional tests like:
How can pulmonary hypertension be treated?
There is no permanent cure for pulmonary hypertension. The approach is to slow the progression of the condition, remove any causation agents and relieve symptoms and improve lifestyle. Any treatment suggested by your doctor will need long-term follow-up and compliance with recommendations.
Your doctor may advise you to take some medications to help. These may include:
If medications fail to control the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension, your doctor may recommend a surgical option, such as an atrial septostomy (creating a connection between the upper left and right side of your heart) or a transplant. Surgical methods have their risks and so, your doctor may recommend them only when the benefits outweigh the risks.
Some recommendations for lifestyle correction that can aid recovery include: