Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Pulmonary arterial hypertension is the common name for “pulmonary hypertension of the lung”. When someone is diagnosed with normal (precordial) hypertension, the force of blood against the walls of the arteries is generally not too extreme, which lessens the likelihood of stroke and heart attack. However, when a person is diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), that force is much too high. There is more than one type of pulmonary arterial hypertension.

The first type is called concentric pulmonary hypertension of the lung (CPAH), usually of childhood origin. Typically, many people with this condition have had no strokes or heart attacks and have lived their entire lives, up until age 65, without ever needing medical intervention. While the vast majority of those afflicted with CPAH live into old age, there is a small percentage who experience sudden and tragic death from pulmonary artery disease, due to certain medicines or some other unknown cause.

The second, traditional form of pulmonary arterial hypertension, is caused by a buildup of plaque in the walls of the artery. This buildup causes the blood to exert too much force against the walls, resulting in hypertension. In more severe cases of this disease, the blood pressure can be so high that it causes strokes. This condition is often referred to as “the silent killer”. Although it is relatively rare, there are cases where people who suffer from this condition die through other causes.

Having an indication of either of these two conditions should give you cause to be aware of your health. Your primary care physician should be able to run tests for both conditions to make sure that you are not suffering with another condition unrelated to pulmonary arterial hypertension. When you go to a cardiologist, he or she will most likely use a variety of different tests to rule out any issues that you may not yet be aware exist. If you have a cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, or sudden and serious head trauma, your cardiologist may wish to take a sample of your blood to further test for abnormalities. In addition, if you are experiencing nausea, vomiting, or a combination of these symptoms, your physician will most likely perform an EKG or electrocardiogram, to rule out heart problems.

When patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension cannot get enough oxygen to their lungs, their body begins to function differently. First, the heart enlarges in size due to the lack of enough blood, and then the pumping action of the heart becomes much more aggressive, pumping blood faster throughout the body. While this action helps to pump more blood, it also puts extra stress on the right ventricle. Due to the extra work put on the right ventricle, patients often find themselves having more symptoms, which are often overlooked because they co-exist with other illnesses, such as COPD.

The most common symptom associated with pulmonary arteries and pulmonary arterial hypertension is shortness of breath. This shortness of breath often comes on suddenly and without warning. Patients often wonder what has happened to them and become worried about how they are going to make it through their next work day. While shortness of breath may be the first thing that comes to mind, other symptoms that may be a sign of pulmonary hypertension include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, and chest pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately.

The symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension are very similar to those of high blood pressure, though the treatment methods for each may differ. With pulmonary arterial hypertension, patients are often told to control their blood pressure through lifestyle changes and medication. However, more than half of all patients with PAH also have high blood pressure, making it one of the major symptoms of pulmonary hypertension. It is therefore important that any patient that has either pulmonary arterial hypertension or high blood pressure see a physician right away. Left untreated, pulmonary arterial hypertension can lead to a heart attack or kidney failure. So don’t let it get you down.

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