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Pulmonary hypertension: Find out what happens when blood pressure affects your lungs.

Besides our cardiovascular system, the lungs also handle pressure forces that are usually kept under normal levels that allow our organs to function properly.

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) refers to a group of diseases that involve elevated pressure in the pulmonary circulation. It is related to multiple causes or pathologies such as heart disease, lung disease, sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, hematological disorders, metabolic disorders or it can be induced by drugs and toxins. There is also idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, with no known cause.

Some consequences of PH include hypertrophy, overload, and failure of the right ventricular, and heart failure. It also increases the risk of pulmonary thromboembolism, and has been estimated to have an average survival of 2.8 years from its diagnosis, therefore, PH has a high associated mortality.

It is most common in women between the ages of 30 and 60. Since there is an inherited form of PH, a family history of the disease may increase the risk of developing it. In addition, 500 to 1,000 new cases of PAH are diagnosed each year in the United States.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms include:

  • Dyspnea or shortness of breath that appears with physical effort and is progressive.

  • Fatigue

  • Chest pain

  • Syncope or sudden loss of consciousness

  • Palpitations

  • Peripheral edema or swelling of limbs

  • Lethargy

How is it diagnosed?

The diagnosis is made when the pulmonary artery pressure is greater than or equal to 25 mmHg, assessed by right heart catheterization.

Complementary tests can be performed to identify the cause and treat it, such as electrocardiogram, chest X-ray, pulmonary function test, sleep study, echocardiography, scintigraphy, computed axial tomography, laboratory tests (blood count, thyroid hormones, liver function), HIV serology, and 6-minute exercise test, among others.

This is a serious condition that must be treated to prevent the consequences that can lead to heart failure and death. It can also be prevented by a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise, and regular medical checkups.

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