Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What is pulmonary hypertension?
Pulmonary hypertension is a disorder of the
blood vessels in the lungs. "Pulmonary" means "in the lungs," and "hypertension"
means "high blood pressure."
Pulmonary hypertension happens when the blood
pressure in the pulmonary arteries (the vessels that carry blood from the heart
to the lungs) becomes higher than normal. This puts strain on the right side of
the heart. Pulmonary hypertension is a serious problem.
What are the signs of pulmonary
Common signs of pulmonary hypertension are
shortness of breath with activity, feeling tired, fainting and chest pain.
Symptoms usually limit exercise and other activities.
What causes pulmonary
Pulmonary hypertension can have many causes.
Sometimes the cause is not known. When the cause of pulmonary hypertension isn't
known, the disorder is called "primary" pulmonary hypertension.
"Secondary" pulmonary hypertension has a known
cause. Common causes are emphysema and chronic bronchitis (breathing problems).
Other causes are congestive heart failure, birth defects in the heart, chronic
pulmonary thromboembolism (old blood clots in the pulmonary arteries), HIV
infection (AIDS), and certain medicines, including the diet drugs fenfluramine
and dexfenfluramine. (These diet drugs are no longer available.)
Both primary and secondary types are usually
permanent conditions, although treatment can improve symptoms and long-term
outcomes in some people.
How does my doctor know that I have
The signs of pulmonary hypertension can be like
the signs of many health problems. To find out if you have pulmonary
hypertension, your doctor may do an echocardiogram. For this test, an instrument
called a "probe" is placed on the outside of your chest. The probe sends out
sound waves. These sound waves are used to form pictures of your heart and
estimate the blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries.
How is pulmonary hypertension
If the cause of your pulmonary hypertension is
known, treating the cause may help. Sometimes, medicines called calcium-channel
blockers, breathing oxygen from a tank, or a blood-thinning medicine may help.
In primary pulmonary hypertension, a medicine that is given through a vein,
called prostacyclin (brand name: Flolan), may lower the blood pressure in your