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Condition

Pulmonary Hypertension

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Pulmonary Hypertension?

Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. It makes the right side of the heart work harder than normal.

What are the alternative names for Pulmonary Hypertension?

Pulmonary arterial hypertension; Sporadic primary pulmonary hypertension; Familial primary pulmonary hypertension; Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension; Primary pulmonary hypertension; PPH; Secondary pulmonary hypertension; Cor pulmonale - pulmonary hypertension

What are the causes for Pulmonary Hypertension?

The right side of the heart pumps blood through the lungs, where it picks up oxygen. Blood returns to the left side of the heart, where it is pumped to the rest of the body.

When the small arteries (blood vessels) of the lungs become narrowed, they cannot carry as much blood. When this happens, pressure builds up. This is called pulmonary hypertension.

The heart needs to work harder to force the blood through the vessels against this pressure. Over time, this causes the right side of the heart to become larger. This condition is called right-sided heart failure, or cor pulmonale.

Pulmonary hypertension may be caused by:

  • Autoimmune diseases that damage the lungs, such as scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Birth defects of the heart
  • Blood clots in the lung (pulmonary embolism)
  • Heart failure
  • Heart valve disease
  • HIV infection
  • Low oxygen levels in the blood for a long time (chronic)
  • Lung disease, such as COPD or pulmonary fibrosis or any other severe chronic lung condition
  • Medicines (for example, certain diet drugs)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

In rare cases, the cause of pulmonary hypertension is unknown. In this case, the condition is called idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH). Idiopathic means the cause of a disease is not known. IPAH affects more women than men.

If pulmonary hypertension is caused by a known medicine or medical condition, it is called secondary pulmonary hypertension.

What are the symptoms for Pulmonary Hypertension?

Shortness of breath or lightheadedness during activity is often the first symptom. Fast heart rate (palpitations) may be present. Over time, symptoms occur with lighter activity or even while at rest.

Other symptoms include:

  • Ankle and leg swelling
  • Bluish color of the lips or skin (cyanosis)
  • Chest pain or pressure, most often in the front of the chest
  • Dizziness or fainting spells
  • Fatigue
  • Increased abdomen size
  • Weakness

People with pulmonary hypertension often have symptoms that come and go. They report good days and bad days.

What are the current treatments for Pulmonary Hypertension?

There is no cure for pulmonary hypertension. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms and prevent more lung damage. It is important to treat medical disorders that cause pulmonary hypertension, such as obstructive sleep apnea, lung conditions, and heart valve problems.

Many treatment options for pulmonary arterial hypertension are available. If you are prescribed medicines, they may be taken by mouth (oral), received through the vein (intravenous, or IV), or breathed in (inhaled).

Your provider will decide which medicine is best for you. You will be closely monitored during treatment to watch for side effects and to see how well you are responding to the medicine. DO NOT stop taking your medicines without talking to your provider.

Other treatments may include:

  • Blood thinners to reduce the risk of blood clots, especially if you have IPAH
  • Oxygen therapy at home
  • Lung, or in some cases, heart-lung transplant, if medicines do not work

Other important tips to follow:

  • Avoid pregnancy
  • Avoid heavy physical activities and lifting
  • Avoid traveling to high altitudes
  • Get a yearly flu vaccine, as well as other vaccines such as the pneumonia vaccine
  • Stop smoking

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Pulmonary Hypertension?

How well you do depends on what caused the condition. Medicines for IPAH may help slow the disease.

As the illness gets worse, you will need to make changes in your home to help you get around the house.

When should I contact a medical professional for Pulmonary Hypertension?

Call your provider if:

  • You begin to develop shortness of breath when you are active
  • Shortness of breath gets worse
  • You develop chest pain
  • You develop other symptoms
Respiratory
Primary
Heart-lung

REFERENCES

Chin K, Channick RN. Pulmonary hypertension. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 58.

Mclaughlin VV, Humbert M. Pulmonary hypertension. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 85.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Journal: International heart journal
  • Treatment Used: Balloon Pulmonary Angioplasty
  • Number of Patients: 40
  • Published —
This study tested the safety and efficacy of using balloon pulmonary angioplasty to treat patients with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Non-small Cell Lung Cancer
  • Journal: Cancer chemotherapy and pharmacology
  • Treatment Used: Nivolumab
  • Number of Patients: 59
  • Published —
The study researched the outcomes of Nivolumab in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial
Combination Product
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Study Type: Combination Product
  • Participants: 50
  • Start Date: August 1, 2021
Implantable System for Remodulin Post-Approval Study
Clinical Trial
Other
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Study Type: Other
  • Participants: 26
  • Start Date: December 1, 2020
A Machine Learning Approach to Predict Pulmonary Hypertension in Newborns With Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia: a Pilot Study