Sydney is a contributing health writer and editor who enjoys shedding light on health topics, making information available to anyone who wants it, and ending stigmas or lack of access to care and treatment.
Po-Chang Hsu, M.D.
Dr. Hsu received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and holds a Master’s of Science degree from both Harvard University and Tufts University. Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Hsu loves to write, learn new languages, and travel.
April 30, 2021
Pulmonary hypertension is a rare but very serious condition characterized by dangerously high blood pressure in the arteries around the lungs and heart.
Affecting about 2 in 1 million people in the United States and Europe, pulmonary hypertension is a progressive disorder often with no cure.
However, if caught at the right time and with the right treatment, this disease can be managed.
There are five primary types of pulmonary hypertension:
The cause of pulmonary hypertension decides these groupings.
This type of pulmonary hypertension is classified as “group one” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
This common type of pulmonary hypertension occurs when the arteries in the lungs become narrow. This can cause them to become thick and constrict blood flow.
Due to this thickening, the right side of the heart must exert more effort to push your blood through these tight arteries. If left untreated for long enough, your heart will be unable to pump blood throughout the body due to increased levels of stress.
Deemed “group two” by the World Health Organization, this group of pulmonary hypertension starts with issues in the heart instead of the arteries. It is also the most common type of this condition.
If your heart is having trouble contracting, relaxing, or there are issues with your left heart valves. This causes the heart to be unable to manage blood coming from the lungs and causing the blood to become backed up.
This backed-up blood will result in immense pressure in the lungs, as there is nowhere for the blood to go from your lung’s arteries.
Group three pulmonary hypertension is caused by chronic lung disease, or in some cases, hypoxia. Hypoxia is the instance of low oxygen levels in the lungs.
Obstructive lung conditions such as COPD or Asthma make your lung’s airways tighter, restricting airflow. This can also cause the arteries in the lungs to restrict and interfere with blood flow.
Eventually, this will cause your blood pressure to skyrocket in the affected area.
Group four is also referred to as “Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH)” by the WHO. Instances occur when your body cannot dissolve blood clots.
When blood clots occur in the lungs, CTEPH is developed as the clots will create scar tissue inside the arteries. This blocks blood flow within your lungs.
This group of pulmonary hypertension is unique because it can be cured. Often, patients undergo surgery.
“However,” states The Pulmonary Hypertension Association, “not all CTEPH patients are eligible for this surgery. A drug is also available for CTEPH patients if a doctor determines that a patient is not a candidate for the PTE surgery or if PH remains after the surgery.”
Lastly, the fifth group decided by the WHO occurs when the cause of pulmonary hypertension is caused by other unknown diseases.
There can be a wide number of possible suspect diseases:
Regardless of the type of pulmonary hypertension you have, this is a serious condition that should be treated and monitored by a licensed health professional.
The root issue of pulmonary hypertension is dangerously high blood pressure in the arteries.
Depending on the type you have, the cause of this blood pressure will change.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “In some cases, pulmonary hypertension is caused by schistosomiasis, a worm infection common in Africa and Latin America; and sickle cell disease, a genetic abnormality of blood which is common in persons of African origin.”
Pulmonary hypertension is caused by the inflammation and blockage of the arteries around and in the lungs. Depending on your type of pulmonary hypertension, this inflammation will have different origins, but the symptoms usually prevent the same.
The symptoms of pulmonary hypertension are similar to the early signs of the condition. The symptoms include:
In cases of pulmonary hypertension becoming more severe, several complications can arise.
These complications include:
While there’s no cure for this condition, there are several ways to treat the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension. The treatments include:
You can make an appointment with an online doctor through our partner, PlushCare. They provide convenient, quick, affordable access to health care. Since pulmonary hypertension is a condition that requires ongoing monitoring, having an online resource for health care from licensed physicians might be essential.
Your best weapon against pulmonary hypertension is prevention. There is a host of lifestyle choices you can make today to reduce your risk of developing the disease significantly.
Some of these lifestyle choices to help prevent pulmonary hypertension include:
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