Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

In This Article We Will Discuss About:

What Is Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension?

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension as stated is a pathological condition of the lungs in which there is constriction of the arteries resulting in increased pressure. The function of the pulmonary arteries is to carry blood from the heart to lungs where the blood gets oxygenated and thus oxygen is delivered throughout the body. In cases of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, due to constriction of the pulmonary arteries, the heart starts to pump in blood faster resulting in increased blood pressure in the arteries. This condition is potentially serious as this abnormally high pressure in the arteries causes excessive strain on the heart and thus damaging it to a degree. There are several forms of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. It can develop as a result of some other underlying medical condition or as a result of taking certain forms of medications. Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension gets worse with time and may take serious proportions as the pressure in the arteries continues to rise to dangerous levels. There is no definitive cure for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension but treatments are available for control of symptoms.

What Is Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension?

What Are The Causes Of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension?

As stated, Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension develops due to abnormal narrowing of the pulmonary arteries. This condition is caused as a result of these three changes that take place in the body:

  • The muscles within the walls of arteries become contracted thus making it difficult for the blood to flow through them
  • The walls of the arteries become thick due to excessive cell growth
  • Formation of blood clots in the arteries preventing the blood to flow freely.

These above changes make it tough for the blood to flow easily through these arteries thus causing a strain in the heart. With time, the heart muscle starts to become weak and starts to malfunction. When this happens, the affected individual starts to experience symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, dizziness etc. If treatment is not begun for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension sooner then eventually this may lead to heart failure.

Who Is At Risk For Developing Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension?

  • Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension is known to be more common in females than males but is known to affect all ages.
  • Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension gets worse during the time of delivering a child and may even cause death of the mother
  • Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension is also known to occur in people who have a family history of such
  • Some studies indicate that certain appetite suppressing medications generally used by females for controlling their weight can also cause Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.

Is Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension A Serious Condition?

At present, there is no definite cure for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension and it is known to worsen with time.

It is estimated that approximately 50% of people diagnosed with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension succumb to this disease within five years. If left untreated, then the time becomes three years.

Despite treatment, the pressure in the arteries of the lungs causes difficulty in doing day to day tasks but by making certain alteration in lifestyle people can go about doing their normal activities. Based on functioning of an individual the physicians have categorized the functional status of an individual into four categories which are:

Class I: In this category, there is no limitation for the affected individual to perform any tasks without development of symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath etc.

Class II: In this category, the individual has mild limitation of activities and the individual does not experience any symptoms at rest but any sort of excess physical activity causes development of symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue etc.

Class III: In this category, individual experience significant limitation in activities that they can do. They may be no problems at rest but any sort of physical exertion can cause development of symptoms.

Class IV: In this category, the individual is not able to perform any sort of activity without experiencing symptoms. There may also be signs of heart failure as well. The individual may experience symptoms at rest as well as with any activity.

What Are The Symptoms Of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension?

Some of the symptoms of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Leg edema
  • Lightheadedness with activities
  • Shortness of breath with activities
  • Weakness.

How Is Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Diagnosed?

Since the symptoms of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension are quite similar to other lung and heart conditions, it becomes difficult to diagnose this disease. If the treating physician suspects that an individual has Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, then the physician may run a battery of tests for confirmation of the diagnosis. Some of the tests include:

  • Chest x-Ray
  • EKG
  • Right Heart Catheterization
  • Pulmonary Function Tests
  • Perfusion Lung Scan
  • Exercise Stress Test.

What Are Treatments For Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension?

As stated, there is no definitive cure for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension but treatments are available for control of symptoms and are usually three fold which are medications, surgery, and lifestyle modifications.

Medications For Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

There are many different medications available for treatment of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension and each work differently but their main aim is to reduce the strain on the heart. The physician may formulate a drug regimen based on the symptom profile, the severity of the disease, and how an individual responds to the medication regimen.

Some of the medications used for treatment of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension are:

  • Endothelin Receptor Antagonists: These medications work by stopping the adverse effects of Endothelin which is a hormone which controls blood flow and cell growth in vessels. Individuals with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension have abnormally high levels of endothelin.
  • Phosphodiesterase-5 Inhibitors: These drugs are used for muscle relaxation and control abnormal cell growth in blood vessels.
  • Prostacyclin: These medications relax the blood vessels and prevent formation of blood clots.
  • Anticoagulants: These medications are also used to prevent formation of blood clots in the vessels.
  • Calcium Channel Blockers: These medications are used for reduction of constriction in the arteries
  • Diuretics: These medications are used to improve the functioning of the heart
  • Digoxin: This medication is given so that the heart pumps blood more forcefully
  • Oxygen Therapy for controlling shortness of breath.

Surgical Procedures For Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension: Some of the surgical procedures done for relief of symptoms are:

  • Transplantation: This is usually done for those people with extreme cases of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.
  • Septostomy: This is a procedure in which the surgeon makes a hole between the top chambers of the heart so that blood is distributed in the body without going to the lungs. It reduces strain to the heart but at the same time significantly reduces the amount of oxygen that is delivered to the body.

Lifestyle Changes For Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

  • Maintain adequate weight control. Contact physician if there is a rapid weight gain in increments of about 5 pounds in a week's time.
  • Have general health checkups possibly annually with the primary treating physician.
  • Try and avoid heavy lifting as these tend to increase pressure in the arteries of the lungs
  • Regular exercises also is imperative, especially walking as it improves blood circulation in the body but ath same time try and avoid strenuous exercises
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol intake
  • In females, avoiding pregnancy is preferable.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: May 5, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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