Pulmonary hypertension (PH) occurs when the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery rises far above normal levels. The pulmonary artery is the blood vessel carrying oxygen-poor blood from the right ventricle, one of the pumping chambers of the heart, to the lungs. In the lungs, the blood picks up oxygen and then flows to the left side of the heart, where it is pumped by the left ventricle to the rest of the body through the aorta.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) gives us an indication of how normal and abnormal pressure compares:
Abnormally high pressure (pulmonary hypertension) is associated with changes in the small blood vessels in the lungs, resulting in an increased resistance to blood flowing through the vessels.
“This increased resistance places a strain on the right ventricle which now has to work harder than usual against the resistance to move adequate amounts of blood through the lungs. As a result of the increased workload, the right side of the heart can become enlarged and heart failure can develop” said William Erwin, MD of Catawba Valley Pulmonology.
In the United States, it has been estimated by NHLBI, that 300 new cases of PH are diagnosed each year. TheAmerican Heart Association puts the estimate higher at between 500 and 1,000 and it may be even higher. The greatest numbers are reported in women between the ages of 21 and 40. Indeed, at one time the disease was thought to occur among young women almost exclusively; we now know, however, that men and women in all age ranges, from very young children to elderly people, can develop PPH. Apparently it also affects people of all racial and ethnic origins equally.
A person with Pulmonary Hypertension may experience these symptoms:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Fainting spells
- Swelling in the ankles or legs
- Bluish lips and skin
- Chest pain
While there is no cure for pulmonary hypertension, early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve your ability to live with the disease. Drs. William Erwin and Peter Alford both have expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of this illness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have been diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension make an appointment at Catawba Valley Pulmonology, located inside the Wellness Center at 3246 6th Ave, SE, Suite 200, Hickory, NC, by calling 828.326.2660.