Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois
Pulmonary hypertension, or PH, occurs when pressure increases in the pulmonary arteries, which carry blood from your heart to your lungs to pick up oxygen.
Pulmonary hypertension begins when your pulmonary arteries become inflamed, restricted or blocked. As a result, blood faces greater resistance when flowing through the pulmonary arteries. To compensate, your heart is forced to work harder to pump this blood. Over time, this strains and weakens your heart, especially the rightventricle, which pumps blood directly into the pulmonary arteries.
Pulmonary Hypertension Symptoms
Pulmonary hypertension often develops slowly and many people can have the condition for years without knowing it. When symptoms of pulmonary hypertension appear, they often resemble symptoms of other heart and lung conditions, and may include:
- A racing heartbeat
- Abdominal pain, especially on the right side
- Chest pain
- Decreased appetite
- Shortness of breath with everyday activities
As the condition becomes more advanced, the following symptoms may appear:
- Bluish lips and skin
- Feeling lighted-headed, especially during physical activity
- Swelling in the ankles, legs or abdomen
Symptoms of pulmonary hypertensioncan vary in their severity, and many people experience only some of these symptoms. But as the condition progresses, most people have difficulty performing everyday activities.
Pulmonary Hypertension Causes
The following are some of the underlying causes of pulmonary hypertension:
- Blood disorders, including sickle cell disease, blood clotting disorders or blood clots in the lungs
- Certain heart diseases, including aortic valve disease, left heart failure, mitral valve disease and congenital heart disease
- Drugs or toxins, especially certain street drugs, such as cocaine
- Lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and interstitial lung disease
- Other medical conditions, including liver disease, rheumatic disorders, connective tissue diseases, HIV/AIDS, chronic high blood pressure, obesity and metabolic disorders, such as thyroid disease
- Reduced oxygen levels from high altitudes and sleep apnea
In some cases, the causes of pulmonary hypertension remain unknown.
Diagnosing Pulmonary Hypertension
Pulmonary hypertension can be difficult to diagnose since symptoms occur gradually. However, diagnosis is based on identifying the symptoms of pulmonary hypertensionand recognizing any underlying conditions and risk factors in your personal and family health histories.
To confirm a diagnosis, your doctor is likely to perform several of the following tests:
- 6-minute walk test to determine exercise tolerance
- Cardiac catheterization
- Chest CT scan
- Chest X-ray
- Echocardiography or a Doppler echocardiogram
- Lab testing or blood teststo screen for underlying health conditions that lead to pulmonary hypertension
- Pulmonary function tests to check for other lung conditions
- Tests to check for blood clots in the arteries leading to the lungs
- Tests to check for sleep apnea
Treating Pulmonary Hypertension
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or prescribe medications and/or procedures to help relieve the symptoms, treat underlying causes and slow the progression of pulmonary hypertension.
Medications may include:
- Anticoagulants or blood thinners to prevent clots from forming
- Digoxin to improve the heart’s pumping ability
- Diuretics to remove excess fluid
- Oxygen to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood
- Vasodilators to lower pulmonary blood pressure and improve the heart’s pumping ability
In some cases, doctors may perform a surgical procedure to remove a blood clot from the pulmonary artery. Currently, the only cure for pulmonary hypertension is to perform a lung transplant or a heart/lung transplant, a rare but necessary surgery for patients who have combined lung and left heart failure.
A Leader in Treating Pulmonary Hypertension
Aurora Health Care provides the whole spectrum of services for patients with pulmonary hypertension. Manypatients have the same nurse coordinator and physician throughout their lifetime. Other caregivers may include:
- Cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation therapists
- Financial counselors
- Home care nurses and therapists
- Social workers
These professionals work as a team in the Tendick Heart Failure Center, located at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our team manages and coordinates outpatient services at this location, which makes it easier for patients to see a variety of dedicated cardiac professionals at one location, during one visit. If patients require hospitalization, this same team oversees their inpatient care, which makes for a seamless transition.
Aurora doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.