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Provider’s Weigh-In: Pulmonary Hypertension – Early Diagnosis Matters!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a rare lung condition characterized by the narrowing of arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs, causing blood flow to be difficult. The heart therefore has to work harder to force blood through these arteries, creating higher blood pressure. This overworking frequently results in heart failure. "Pulmonary hypertension is a life-threatening disease of multiple potential causes. The diagnosis is not always immediately considered since the symptoms are non-specific and present in other common disorders. Efforts to raise awareness about pulmonary hypertension are very important because they can lead to early diagnosis and treatment of the disease which would lead to a better prognosis," says Dr. Roberto F. Machado, director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at UI Health.

Roberto F Machado MD

Roberto F. Machado, M.D.
Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program

Anyone is susceptible to PH, but some factors such as family history, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, gender, pregnancy, other heart diseases, and exposure to some drugs make a person more prone to it. Women are two and a half times more likely to have PH than men. PH can also be caused by birth defects or happen as a result of several conditions including diseases of the heart and lungs, blood diseases, and blood clots in the lungs.

PH is a slow developing disease with no early symptoms or signs. Many people have it for years and not know it.

Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting spells
  • Weakness
  • Swelling of the arms, legs, ankles or abdomen (also called edema)

In advanced stages of pulmonary hypertension, minimal activity may also produce some or all of these symptoms.

There is no real cure for PH. However, treatments may help relieve and control symptoms. Treatment will depend on the severity and the cause of the disease. Specific treatment will be determined for each patient based:

  • Age, overall health, and medical history
  • Tolerance for specific medications and procedures
  • Expectations for the course of the disease

Different types of treatments include prescribed medication to improve blood flow or reduce the amount of work to be done by heart. This will help lower blood pressure and improve the performance of the heart. Some patients also require treatment to improve breathing. Without treatment, PH can lead to several chronic illnesses.

Click here to learn more about the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at UI Health