Pulmonary hypertension, or PAH is high blood pressure within the heart and lung system. Think of the heart as a two-sided pump with four chambers (two upper chambers called atriums and two lower chambers called ventricles). Every day the heart continuously feeds a closed system of blood vessels to send oxygen around the body so that cells can function and live.
Every heartbeat is a contraction of the heart muscle, squeezing blood through the chambers. The right side of the heart, made up of the upper right atrium and lower right ventricle, pump blood though the lungs so that it can pick up fresh oxygen supplies.
The oxygen rich blood is then returned to the left side of the heart, made up of the upper left atrium and lower left ventricle. From there, it is then sent out to all of the cells of the body along a network of blood vessels. The cells of the body then remove the oxygen and the now oxygen-depleted blood is routed back up to the right side where it starts all over again.
When someone has pulmonary hypertension, the pressure in the blood moving through the lungs is too high. If the pressure is higher than 25 mm Hg at rest, or 30 mmHg when the body is engaged in physical activity, it is considered abnormally high, and called pulmonary hypertension.
Pulmonary Hypertension is Dangerous
Pulmonary hypertension is a serious, even life-threatening disease that becomes worse over time. The early symptoms may be so mild that they go undetected. Common symptoms include feeling tired, shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting, pain or pressure in your chest, swelling, known as edema, in your ankles, legs and abdominal area, a very fast pulse or heart palpations, or a bluish tint to your skin or lips, known as cyanosis. This is because un-oxygenated blood has a blue color while oxygen rich blood is red. The reason blood is red when someone is bleeding is that all blood becomes red when exposed to the outside air, which is rich in oxygen.
As the disease progresses, the patient may become very lightheaded or dizzy, especially during physical activity. Swelling in the ankles and legs becomes more pronounced and the skin becomes more bluish in color, especially around the lips.
Your doctor has specialized tests to evaluate and diagnose pulmonary hypertension. Common tests often include an EKG, or electrocardiogram, and a heart catheterization of the right side of the heart. Your physician may also order a lung function tests, a CT scan of your chest or an MRI, blood tests, as well as any other tests they deem appropriate to diagnose any underlying condition and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Many patients are referred to a pulmonologist by their primary care physician or when they are treated at the emergency room or during hospitalization. To find out more about pulmonology and pulmonary hypertension, or our outstanding and caring pulmonologists in Sarasota/Manatee County Florida, please call your Intercoastal Medical Group primary care physician today to determine your need for an appointment with one of our highly qualified pulmonary specialists.