Pulmonary hypertension is a progressive, quickly advancing disease. Currently, there is no cure and, if left untreated, it can be life-threatening. In fact, pulmonary hypertension can occur at any age and heart failure is common as the disease progresses. Luckily, it can be treated.
What is Pulmonary Hypertension?
Pulmonary hypertension is a specific type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of your heart. It begins when tiny arteries in your lungs, called pulmonary arteries, and capillaries become narrowed, blocked or destroyed thus making it harder for blood to flow through your lungs. This results in increased pressure within your lungs’ arteries.
As the pressure builds, your heart’s lower right chamber (right ventricle) must work harder to pump blood through your lungs, eventually causing your heart muscle to weaken and eventually fail.
Are You at Risk?
Pulmonary hypertension may occur at any age, but the incidence increases with age. The disease is more common among women, non-Hispanic blacks, and among people aged 75 or older. Those with certain diseases, such as HIV, are also at greater risk for pulmonary hypertension.
Pulmonary Hypertension Symptoms
Patients diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension often report similar symptoms. Some of the most common include:
- Shortness of breath, initially while exercising and eventually while at rest
- Racing pulse or heart palpitations
- Dizziness or fainting spells (syncope)
- Chest pressure or pain
- Swelling (edema) in your ankles, legs and eventually your abdomen (ascites)
- Bluish color to your lips and skin (cyanosis)
- Chest pressure or pain
Pulmonary Hypertension Classes
Once diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, you may be classified by your physician at Pulmonary Care of Central Florida using guidelines developed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Class I – You have been diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, but you have no symptoms.
- Class II – You don’t have symptoms at rest, but you experience fatigue, shortness of breath or chest pain with normal activity.
- Class III – You’re comfortable at rest, but have symptoms when you’re physically active.
- Class IV – You have symptoms even at rest.
If you think you may have pulmonary hypertension or are worried about your pulmonary hypertension risk because of a family history or other underlying conditions, be sure to consult a local pulmonary specialist.