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  • What’s LUNGS got to do with it? About Pulmonary Hypertension
    Added by My Identity Doctor
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    You’re probably familiar with the term hypertension—this is the medical term for high blood pressure. But what, exactly, is pulmonary hypertension? November is Pulmonary Hypertension awareness month, so there’s no better time to learn about this condition that affects the lungs.
    What is pulmonary hypertension?
    Pulmonary hypertension [PH] is, simply, high blood pressure in the lungs. This high blood pressure is not present throughout the body as it is in typical hypertension. [1]
    There are four major causes of pulmonary hypertension; three fall into the category of “pulmonary arterial hypertension”, which affects the pulmonary artery, the main artery transferring blood back into the lungs from the heart. The stiffened arteries are much harder for the heart to pump blood through, causing the right side of the heart to have to work harder. [1] This can lead to right heart failure over time, affecting the heart’s ability to pump blood to the lungs and rest of the body. Pulmonary arterial hypertension [PAH] is caused by genetics (heritable PAH), another disease such as congenital heart disease or scleroderma, or a disease treatment (such as medicines for HIV). [1] The third common cause is known as idiopathic—meaning that it is not known what caused the PAH to develop. [1]
    The final common cause of pulmonary hypertension is caused by blood clots in the lungs, known as pulmonary embolism. [1] These clots can cause issues with blood flow through the lungs, and cause pulmonary hypertension.
    Am I at risk for pulmonary hypertension? What are the symptoms?
    The best way to know if you are at risk for PH is to ask your doctor. Common conditions that may pose a higher risk for causing PH include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep apnea, left heart disease, congenital or acquired cardiomyopathy (weakness of the heart muscle) , chronic exposure to elevation/altitude (lower oxygen available in the environment), chronic anemia, systemic and metabolic disorders, and other chronic conditions including kidney failure requiring dialysis, tumours and other fibrotic type diseases [1]. In hereditary PH, family history can directly impact developing PH, obesity can impact your lungs by making breathing more work and causing issues with blood circulation; obesity may also be a precursor to developing obstructive sleep apnea [1.1]. Drug use, including illicit drugs like methamphetamine and diet pills can also cause pulmonary hypertension [1.1]. When it comes to idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, women are at higher risk than men, and this increases with pregnancy—pregnancy can also pose greater risk for women who already have PH [1.1].
    Symptoms of PH include being breathless or short of breath, dry cough, chest pain (angina), dizziness and fainting, low energy, and edema—swelling or puffiness in the arms, legs, ankles and belly. These symptoms may mean you could have PH or another condition. With PH, these symptoms will get worse as the disease progresses, and may be exacerbated (provoked) with even minimal activity. With severe PH, passing out, heartbeat irregularities and difficulty breathing at rest may be experienced [1.2]
    How is pulmonary hypertension treated?
    A variety of drugs can be used to treat PH, it depends on the cause of the disease. Medicines may be taken orally, inhaled, taken by an infusion pump or intravenous in hospital. Heart and blood pressure medicines (like diuretics or blood thinners) are also commonly used. Oxygen therapy given by nasal cannula or face mask is also used to ease the symptoms of PH.
    As a final resort, lung transplantation may be appropriate. [1.3]
    Can I prevent pulmonary hypertension?
    Not all cases of PH could have been prevented, but some can be. Preventing high blood pressure, heart disease and liver disease by living a healthy lifestyle, and abstaining from tobacco use can prevent some cases of pulmonary hypertension. [2] Treating and controlling conditions that are known to cause PH is also an important step to prevention, including congenital heart disease, sleep apnea and obesity. [2]
    If you live with pulmonary hypertension, it is important to wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace. If your PH is caused by another medical condition, identifying this condition as well can help you in a medical emergency and ensure you receive the most appropriate treatment quickly.
    Published by My Identity Doctor on November 7, 2016


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