High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common medical problem, affecting about half of all adults in the United States. This type of hypertension is sometimes called systemic hypertension because it refers to the blood flow throughout your entire body.
But systemic hypertension isn’t the only kind of hypertension you can have. Pulmonary hypertension is another type of high blood pressure that affects the blood flow in your lungs, and it’s much rarer than systemic hypertension, occurring in a handful of every million adults.
There is no cure for pulmonary hypertension, and without medical treatment, it can be deadly. The problem is, many of the symptoms associated with PH can be easily confused with other medical problems, like asthma or other lung or airway diseases. To make sure you get care promptly, you need to know the signs and symptoms of PH.
The team at California Lung Associates offers the most advanced treatment options for pulmonary hypertension, helping patients get the care they need to reduce symptoms and slow disease progression. Here’s what they want you to know about the symptoms PH can cause.
Pulmonary hypertension: Why it happens
Pulmonary hypertension has a few underlying causes, including:
- Left heart disease (most common cause in the U.S.)
- Lung disease, like COPD
- Sleep apnea
- Long-term, unmanaged high blood pressure
- Congenital (present at birth) heart defect
- Liver disease
- Connective tissue disease
- Blood clots in the lungs
Pulmonary hypertension caused by an underlying medical problem is called secondary pulmonary hypertension. When PH happens without an underlying medical problem, it’s called primary pulmonary hypertension.
Pulmonary hypertension can also be inherited, and some types of PH have no known cause (called idiopathic PH). Not surprisingly, PH is more common among people who smoke, and it also becomes more common with age.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a subset of pulmonary hypertension. While PH includes high blood pressure in the lungs from any cause, PAH is high blood pressure that happens on the right side of the heart, making it a lot harder for the heart to pump blood to the lungs.
PH symptoms: What to look for
The most common symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Some people with PH have all these symptoms, but many have only a few.
Some of the symptoms of PH are similar to the symptoms associated with other health issues, like asthma, COPD, smoking habit, and even obesity. That’s why it’s easy for many people to overlook their symptoms or simply to attribute them to “getting older.”
Pulmonary hypertension is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. Without medical care, PH can quickly become life-threatening. With prompt intervention by a lung specialist, you can relieve your symptoms and improve your lung health, too.
Treating pulmonary hypertension
Pulmonary hypertension requires an individualized approach to care that evolves as your symptoms change with time. Many people with PH benefit from a combination of therapies, including:
- Diuretic medications
- Medicines to help your heart or thin your blood
- Oxygen therapy
- Lifestyle changes, like a healthy diet and regular activity
- Smoking cessation programs
The key is to seek medical treatment as early as possible to protect your lungs and improve your lung function and your heart health, too.
If you’re having any symptoms associated with PH, call our Los Angeles office to schedule an evaluation with the team at California Lung Associates today.