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Pulmonary Hypertension;
its Symptoms and Complications

Recurring high blood pressure is hazardous and impacts the body in various ways. The type of high blood pressure that affects the heart's right side arteries is termed as pulmonary hypertension. You can check out to learn more about pulmonary hypertension. This can also affect the lung arteries in the form of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH). During PAH, the lungs' blood vessels can be narrowed, blocked, or destroyed. All of these states restrict blood flow to the lungs, which hinders their functionality.

The slowed blood causes the blood pressure in the arteries to rise. Consequently, the heart has to exert more force to pump the blood through the lungs. This increase in pressure build-up causes the weakening of heart muscles. It can be life-threatening unless the patient receives critical care.

Signs of Pulmonary Hypertension 

Signs and symptoms of pulmonary hypertension develop gradually. They may go unnoticed for long periods, such as for months and even years. However, there are some identifiable symptoms that many patients with pulmonary hypertension have. If you worry that you or someone you know is at risk of developing this disease, you should look out for the symptoms explained below.

  • Shortness of Breath
    Medically, the shortness of breath is termed Dyspnea. Individuals who are in the initial stages of pulmonary hypertension experience dyspnea when exercising. As compared to others, their heartbeat escalates quicker. They have to halt and breathe frequently. It is because muscles demand ample oxygen to formulate energy for exercise. If such individuals don't take regular breaks from rigorous work, they may experience chest pain as their heart struggles to keep up. They also feel exhausted while climbing stairs or playing any outdoor sports. As their condition worsens, they may experience shortening of breath even when at rest.
  • Fatigue
    Patients with pulmonary hypertension also suffer from chronic fatigue. It means they frequently feel drained, both mentally and physically. They may have problems doing daily activities or maintaining a routine. For example, leaving their bed in the morning or making a meal could be an arduous task. It can cause their professional and familial relationships to suffer. They also face an inexplicable lack of inspiration, so the will to be productive can be absent in such individuals.

    It happens because heart diseases create obstacles in blood circulation. So, the brain and other organs suffer from a lack of oxygen. Brain cells struggle to function effectively, causing the patient to feel drained and exhausted.

  • Dizziness
    People living with pulmonary hypertension feel dizzy more frequently than healthy adults. While walking, they may feel light-headed and complain that their head is spinning. Patients' sensory organs, like ears and eyes, are also affected. They may hear a pounding echo in their head or feel a tingling sensation behind their eyelids.

    This dizziness is also known as Syncope, and it often ends with them fainting. They lose conscience and pass out due to a drastic drop in the blood flow to the brain.

  • Pain in Chest
    Chest pain is among the typical symptoms of pulmonary hypertension, but chest pain can occur because of some other health conditions as well. For example, people with GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) also complain of chest pain due to acidity. However, ache due to pulmonary disease is more similar to a stabbing sensation. As someone with heart disease, you may feel that there are knots in your chest. If you suffer from it, it is better to visit the hospital rather than waiting for it to pass. Delaying the visit can cause further complications.
  • Skin Problems
    The individual may experience swelling in their legs, ankles, and even the abdomen when the condition progresses. Swelling at the legs and ankles' level is termed as edema, but abdominal swelling is medically known as ascites. Their stomach may seem bloated, regardless of what they consume. The veins also become prominent, and the swelled region may feel numb to touch.

    Sometimes, patients develop a condition called Cyanosis. It occurs when their organs don't receive oxygenated blood. Consequently, their lips, skin, tongue, and fingers can exhibit a bluish hue.

What to Do Next If You Experience These Symptoms?

If you exhibit one or more of these symptoms, you should consider them as a cause for concern. Many people are tempted to self-diagnose problems as something trivial. For example, you may want to regard skin's blueness as an indication of some seasonal allergy, but trivializing issues can have severe consequences in the future. Even if the symptom is from a minor bodily imbalance, visiting an expert can alleviate your worries. Critical problems, like heart pain and unexpected shortness of breath deserve urgent medical care. Your doctor will discuss coping mechanisms and treatment options, so pulmonary hypertension doesn't interfere with your life.

What Consequences Can Pulmonary Hypertension Have?

Pulmonary hypertension heavily disturbs the cardiovascular system, but its impacts are not limited to the heart. It can also impede the operations of the liver, lungs, brain, and other vital organs. Several consequences can result from progressive pulmonary hypertension. Learning about these will help you realize the importance of early treatment.

  • Heart Failure
    The most brutal and irreversible consequence of pulmonary hypertension is heart failure. Medically known as Cor Pulmonale, it is a condition where the heart's right ventricle increases in size. This increase is the consequence of the forceful pumping due to narrowed or blocked pulmonary arteries.

    As mentioned earlier in this article, forceful pumping can be life-threatening. During the initial stages, the heart compensates by expanding the right ventricle. However, the strain causes the cardiac muscles to weaken eventually. When they are no longer capable of working, scarcity of oxygen in the body can be devastating. Other organs also stop working consequently, and lack of medical attention makes it fatal.

  • Blood Clotting
    Pulmonary hypertension can lead to blood coagulation in the already narrowed and weakened arteries. It indicates that the heart has to work thrice as hard to supply blood. It is a dangerous condition, whichever way it ends. If the clot dislodges, the patient can suffer a stroke or hemorrhage, and if it stays in the heart, it can lead to partial or entire heart failure.
  • Irregular Heart Beat
    Pulmonary hypertension makes the patients susceptible to Arrhythmia, a recurring condition of the irregular heartbeat. It is also accompanied by heart palpitations, dizziness, and even fainting. It happens because the electrical system in the heart is disturbed by Arrhythmia.

    If a patient's heart contracts irregularly and pumps too much blood, they may be suffering from SuperVenticular Arrhythmia. It can also damage the walls of the central heart chamber or atria. Many Arrhythmia patients can live a normal life, but certain types of this condition can be disastrous.

  • Liver Problems
    When the blood pressure in veins leading to the liver increases, the blood can surpass the liver without interacting with it. It means that the patient's liver does not detox chemicals, make amino acids, or store vitamins. Its typical functions are adversely affected, which in turn harms the body.

    This impairment also constricts the blood vessels, causing portal hypertension. If it is severe, a liver transplant may be the only option left.

  • Pregnancy Complications
    Pulmonary hypertension is a potentially fatal condition for a pregnant female and her baby. A developing fetus requires a lot of nutrients and energy. These are transported by the mother's blood, after which they diffuse into the fetus's blood. The heart has to work strenuously to make sure that the baby develops properly. This additional pressure creates clots and strains the chest. It also leads to further risk factors, like hypercoagulability and decreased systemic vascular resistance. Besides, the mother is at high risk of death from a stroke or heart attack during labor if she suffers from pulmonary hypertension.

    It is also why doctors recommend the women with pulmonary hypertension not get pregnant. Besides, heart diseases are often genetic, so people may choose to stay childless by choice.

  • Internal Bleeding
    Individuals affected by pulmonary hypertension can acquire hemoptysis. Hemoptysis is a condition where the lungs bleed internally. It is a life-threatening condition and also causes the individual to cough up blood mixed with mucus.

Is Pulmonary Hypertension Curable?

Due to its rarity, there aren't a lot of treatment options for pulmonary hypertension. Patients may not find a permanent cure, but it does not mean that it is a lost cause. There are multiple ways that doctors can help patients with pulmonary hypertension manage a normal life. The potential options include therapy, medical drugs, or an organ transplant.

The doctor may prescribe medications with vasodilators, like epoprostenol. These chemicals help dilate the constricted arteries. Some patients also receive anti-coagulant medicines, as these work to remove the clots formed in the blood vessels. Oxygen therapy is also a viable option for many pulmonary hypertension patients. In this procedure, they breathe in pure and filtered oxygen. Consequently, their heart and lungs do not have to work tirelessly to purify the blood.

It is crucial for the patient to discuss each option's costs, success rate, and side effects for an effective treatment.

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