Pulmonary arterial hypertension

Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a type of blood pressure that affects the arteries of the lungs and right side of the heart. It begins when the small pulmonary arteries (lungs arteries) and capillaries become blocked, narrowed or destroyed. This makes the heart difficult to flow the blood through the lungs, thus increase the blood pressure within the arteries in lungs. In this way, when the pressure increases, the ventricles (lower chamber of heart) of the heart must work harder to keep the blood flow intact through the lungs. If the heart works like this for a long time the muscles of heart become weak and eventually fail completely.

Pulmonary hypertension is a chronic illness that becomes progressively worse and is sometimes fatal. It is a disease that can not be cured but by proper treatment the symptoms can be improved and the life style can also be improved. The symptoms of the pulmonary arterial blood pressure can not be noticed when the disease starts but with time when the disease progresses the situation becomes worse and thus the symptoms also become worse. The common symptoms of pulmonary arterial blood pressure are:

  • Dizziness or fainting spells (syncope)
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea), initially while exercising and eventually while at rest
  • Bluish color to the lips and skin (cyanosis)
  • Chest pressure or pain, legs and eventually in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Swelling (edema) in ankles
  • Racing pulse and palpitation

The heart has four chambers, two upper and two lower chambers. Every time blood passes through the heart, the lower right chambers passes the blood through the pulmonary artery which is one of the large blood vessel of the heart connects the heart with lungs. In the lungs, the blood takes oxygen and releases carbon-di-oxide and supply the oxygen rich blood to the left side of the heart through the pulmonary arteries, capillaries and veins. Normally, the blood pressure is much lower in lungs because the blood flows very easily through the vessels of the lungs. Pulmonary hypertension occurs – when the blood vessels supplying blood to the lungs become altered and induce extra cells to grow in the blood vessel lining. This makes the vessel narrower which eventually blocks and stiffens the arteries. In this way, blood pressure raises and makes the heart difficult to pump the blood through the pulmonary arteries.

According to epidemiological study, older adults are more susceptible to secondary pulmonary arterial hypertension, which is caused as the side effects of some other prevalent diseases. Younger people are more susceptible to idiopathic pulmonary hypertension – which can occur without any defined reason. The idiopathic hypertension can also be caused by family history of the disease i.e. genetic causes.

Though it takes a considerable amount of research and analysis to find the best viable option, there are so many options for ensuring effective treatments of pulmonary hypertension. But cautious observations are needed for the treatment by specialized cardiovascular physicians. The treatment options available are vasodilators which open narrowed blood vessels, with the most commonly prescribed drug being epoprostenol. Another option is endothelin receptor antagonists which can reverse the effect of “endothelin” – a substance which is known to narrow the blood vessels. Sildenafil is another option. High dose calcium channel blockers are also a good option for the treatment of hypertension. Apart from these medications, surgical treatment can also be used to treat the disorder. However, surgical treatment is generally reserved as the last possible option, when drugs and therapies fail. Atrial septostomy, which is actually a creation of opening between right and left chambers of the heart to release blood pressure, can cure the disease with some rhythmic complications. Surgical transplantation can also cure the disease by transplanting the lungs or heart.

Last updated on Sep 7th, 2010 and filed under Cardiovascular Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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