Pulmonary Hypertension

What is Pulmonary Hypertension?

Pulmonary Hypertension occurs when the arteries that move blood from the heart to the lungs narrow and build up pressure. That pressure, in turn, puts a strain on the heart’s ability to pump sufficient blood to the lungs. The right ventricle of the heart that pumps directly to the lungs may become enlarged because it is working so much harder, and then it loses the ability to pump properly. Partial or complete heart failure can result.

Anyone can develop pulmonary hypertension, but it is twice as common in women as in men and tends to affect younger adults.

People who are overweight, use recreational drugs like cocaine or have a family member with pulmonary hypertension are more likely to develop the disease.

What are the Symptoms of Pulmonary Hypertension?

The symptoms of pulmonary hypertension generally come on slowly and increase in severity over time. If you have shortness of breath, tire easily, get dizzy or faint or feel pain in your chest, you should see a doctor to be evaluated for pulmonary hypertension.

Other signs of the disease include getting edema, or swelling, in your legs and arms. You may experience heart palpitations or inconsistent heart beat. In some cases, the lack of oxygen to your body can turn your skin a slightly bluish color.

How is Pulmonary Hypertension Treated?

There is no cure for pulmonary hypertension, but smart management of the symptoms can keep the disease from getting worse. Sometimes it can be challenging to find the right treatment for your individual needs, and it may take some time and experimentation with your doctor’s input to find the right medications to treat the disease.

An inhaler with a vasodilator can help in instances where you feel shortness of breath. Other drugs can help open the narrow arteries and increase blood flow. Your doctor is likely to give you a blood thinner to prevent clots from forming and blocking the already narrow arteries.

Surgery may be necessary for some patients with pulmonary hypertension. Open heart surgery can relieve some of the pressure on your heart.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
August 24, 2017