Early symptoms of pulmonary hypertension
The early symptoms of pulmonary hypertension (PH) – of which November is the awareness month – may not become apparent until after months or years have passed. However, they worsen as the condition advances.
Pulmonary hypertension symptoms include:
· Shortness of breath – first during exercise and later even at rest.
· Fainting spells.
· Pain or pressure in the chest.
· Swollen ankles, legs, and abdomen.
· Pain in the upper right abdomen.
· Bluish lips and skin.
· Racing heartbeat.
· Loss of appetite.
When these symptoms occur without a clear cause, we are talking about idiopathic pulmonary hypertension. Secondary pulmonary hypertension, on the other hand, is caused by an underlying medical problem such as:
· Blood clots.
· Emphysema and other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).
· Scleroderma, lupus, and other connective tissue disorders.
· Sleep apnea.
· Congenital heart defects.
· Sickle cell anemia.
· Pulmonary fibrosis and other lung disease.
· Left-sided heart failure.
· Mitral valve disease.
Other risk factors include:
· High altitude – either living at 8,000 feet and higher or climbing to such heights without acclimation.
· Former users of appetite suppressant fen-phen and users of cocaine.
· Elder adults are at an increased risk for secondary PH.
· Young people are at a higher risk for idiopathic PH.
· Men are more likely to develop PH than women.
· Family history.
Failure to diagnose and treat the early symptoms of pulmonary hypertension can lead to such complications as:
· Right-sided heart failure.
· Bleeding into the lungs.
· Hemoptysis (coughing up blood).
Diagnosing pulmonary hypertension
· Chest x-ray.
· Right-heart catheterization.
Checking for underlying causes
· Chest computed tomography.
· Chest magnetic resonance imaging.
· Lung function tests.
· Lung ventilation/perfusion scan.
· Blood tests.
· Six-minute walk test.
Treatment for PH consists of medications or surgery.
Pulmonary hypertension treatment
· Blood thinners.
· Inotropic agents.
· Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors.
· Endothelin receptor antagonists.
· Calcium channel blockers.
· Pulmonary thromboendarterectomy.
· Lung transplant.
· Heart-lung transplant.
· Atrial septostomy.
Living with the early symptoms of pulmonary hypertension is difficult but not impossible. Lifestyle changes can help lead a quality life, for instance:
· Staying physically active.
· Getting enough rest.
· Quitting smoking.
· Avoiding pregnancy.
· Not using birth control pills.
· Avoiding high altitudes.
· Reducing stress.
· Following a nutritious diet.
· Keeping a healthy weight.
The amount and type of physical activity that a person with PH is capable of varies – for example, they should favor walking over weight lifting – and they may need to carry oxygen medical supplies during exercise. Patients should consult a physician before starting any exercise regime.
Related: Early symptoms of IPF