What is Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension?
Pulmonary arterial hypertension, or PAH, is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in your lungs and the right side of your heart. It is a very serious condition that can change your daily life.
However, when you get the right diagnosis, you can get the care you need to reduce your symptoms.
PAH And Your Heart
Your heart pumps blood to your arteries, delivering oxygen to all parts of your body. With a single heartbeat, the left side of your heart sends blood to your body, and blood returns to the right from your body. The right side then pumps through the pulmonary artery to the lungs, where it converts carbon dioxide into oxygen. The oxygen-rich blood returns to the left side of the heart, and the process begins again with the next heartbeat.
It is a short distance from your heart to your lungs. Therefore, in general, the right side should not pump too hard. But with PAH, blood does not flow easily to the arteries in your lungs. Your heart works too hard to force it. Over time, the heart muscle weakens. It can grow and stop working properly. When your blood does not flow properly, your body does not get enough oxygen.
Many people have PAH long before they realize something is wrong. The symptoms are hidden at first. You may feel tired. And your doctor may be wrong about your condition with something very common.
The first symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath during normal physical activity
- Chest pains
- Rhythm of heartbeat
As the disease progresses, you may have:
- Bright head
- Swelling in the legs, arms, or abdomen
- Dry cough, sometimes with blood
- Green lips or fingers
Who Is Most Likely to Have?
Most people who get PAH are women between the ages of 30 and 60. But it can happen to people of all ages, races, and genders. Other factors that make it easier for you to get the disease:
- Family history of this condition
- Other heart and lung diseases
- Illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines, or certain dietary drugs
- Autoimmune Diseases
- History of blood clots in the lungs
- Living in high places
What Causes It?
Many people get PAH when another disease damages their heart or lungs. The most common problems that increase pulmonary hypertension are:
Heart problems: Conditions such as mitral valve disease or chronic high blood pressure damage the left side of the heart until it is not working properly. That causes the blood to return to the blood vessels in the lungs.
Lung Disease: When there is a problem with your lungs, your body tries to protect its supply of oxygen. It keeps the blood away from the injured area and forces it to healthy areas. It can occur if you have sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung diseases, such as emphysema, sarcoidosis, and pulmonary fibrosis.
Other diseases, including blood disorders, thyroid disease, and other metabolic disorders, as well as immune disorders that affect many different parts of the body, such as sarcoidosis and vasculitis.
In rare cases, the problem is found in the arteries themselves. It becomes thinner and thicker, leaving little space for blood to pass through. Causes of this type of PAH include:
- A factor in genetics
- A disease that affects many parts of your body, such as lupus, sickle cell disease, or scleroderma
- Congenital heart disease changes the normal flow of blood to it
- Other drugs and toxins, especially dietary drugs such as fenfluramine (the “fen” part of fen-phen) and illicit drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamines strengthen blood vessels.
- HIV infection or parasite called Schistosoma
Sometimes, doctors cannot say what causes PAH.
What you can do
Talk to your doctor if you have problems with breathing, fatigue, dizziness, or swelling in the legs and ankles. They can do some tests to find out what is going on. It is important to get the right diagnosis so that you can get the right treatment. The sooner you treat PAH, the easier it will be to control it.
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