Pulmonary hypertension is a group of conditions characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lung. Pulmonary hypertension may be associated with systemic high blood pressure, diseases of the heart muscle, valvular heart disease, COPD, interstitial lung disease, sleep apnea and chronic pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lung) among others.
One form of pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary arterial hypertension, affects the small- and medium-sized arteries of the lung. This disease may be idiopathic (idiopathic pulmonary hypertension) or familial. It is also associated with collagen vascular diseases (scleroderma, lupus), congenital heart disease, weight loss drugs (Phen Fen), methamphetamine and cocaine use, liver disease, HIV and sickle cell anemia. Symptoms include shortness of breath, especially with exertion, lightheadedness, fatigue and swelling of the ankles or abdomen. Chest pain during rest or exertion and fainting are serious symptoms and need urgent attention.
Pulmonary hypertension of almost any kind is a serious potentially life-threatening chronic illness without cure. Treatment may include oxygen for patients with low oxygen states during rest, exercise or sleep, and diuretics to reduce the buildup of water in the body. Anticoagulants (blood thinners) are used when clotting is a concern. There are many novel drugs used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, and for patients who do not respond to these therapies, lung transplant is an alternative.