Patient Awareness

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension: Causes & Diagnosis

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
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Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension is a condition where a person has a high blood pressure in the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs. In other words the passage gets narrowed which makes it difficult for blood to pass through. This condition is very different from having high blood pressure in general.  Genes may play a role in why some people get it.

In such a case of hypertension, the pressure in the pulmonary arteries increases abnormally, it results in putting a lot of pressure on the right ventricle of the heart, causing it to expand in size. The right ventricle could gradually lose its ability to pump blood to lungs which is highly life-threatening. 

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Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension can occur in individuals of all ages. Usually much more common in young adults and is approximately twice as common in women as in men.

Common Symptoms

  • Irregular heart palpitations or strong, throbbing sensation on the chest
  • Passing out or frequent dizziness
  • Progressive shortness of breath during any physical activity or exercise
  • Difficulty breathing at rest
  • Swelling in your ankles and legs

Causes of Symptoms

The following are some known causes of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension:

  • Liver diseases or lung conditions: Blood clots in the lungs, pulmonary fibrosis or cirrhosis of the liver could lead to the development of pulmonary hypertension.
  • Heart diseases: Conditions such as aortic valve disease, left heart failure and congenital heart disease could be some of the probable causes for the conditions
  • Genes: Most often the condition is inherited from parents but the percentage of such cases are very less.
  • Illegal drug use:  Continuous usage of drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine leads to long term damage and can even be life threatening.
  • Arthritis: Sometimes, certain rheumatologic conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis might lead to the pulmonary artery becoming narrow.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The first thing your doctor will enquire is if you smoke or if your family has a history of such cases. As each of the symptom and cause is identified and carefully assessed, your diagnosis would include the following to determine the severity and treatment required-

  1. Blood tests: Helps detect the presence of HIV, Arthritis or Lupus
  2. CT Scan: Helps detect the enlarged pulmonary artery and find out the other probable causes for the condition
  3. Echocardiogram: Helps get better understanding of the status of the blood pressure
  4. Electrocardiogram (ECG): Helps get a complete overview of the heart’s activity & strain
  5. Exercise testing: Helps monitor the changes in oxygen level, heart function and other things.

If these tests show that you might have Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, your doctor will need to do a right heart catheterization to be sure. 

If for sure you are diagnosed with the condition, the treatment plan for the same will vary from person to person, so your treatment plan will be specific to your needs. Ask your doctor what your options are and what to expect.

One of the best ways to deal with such a condition is by staying active. Simple exercises like taking a walk will help the breathing get better. Just like anyone else, it’s advisable to follow a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

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