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What Is Pulmonary Hypertension?

By Jessica Lietz ; Updated July 27, 2017

Pulmonary hypertension is a type of heart disease that causes dangerously high blood pressure in your lungs, affecting the arteries of your lungs and part of your heart. Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension may not develop until the disease has advanced, and if not treated, you may develop life-threatening complications.


Pulmonary hypertension can be diagnosed by a cardiologist or a pulmonologist with an echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to make a picture of your heart.


Shortness of breath while exercising; chest pain; fatigue; fainting; swelling in your feet, ankles and legs; and cyanosis of your lips, fingers and toes are symptoms of pulmonary hypertension.


Pulmonary hypertension is caused by the hardening or narrowing of the arteries in your lungs and the right side of your heart.


Spending time at high altitudes (8,000 feet and higher) may cause you to develop pulmonary hypertension because of low blood oxygen or accumulation of fluid in your lungs.


Factors that increase your risk of pulmonary hypertension include older age, being female and having a family history of the condition.


Medical conditions such as AIDS, chronic hepatitis, sickle cell anemia, sleep apnea, lupus and emphysema may cause you to develop secondary pulmonary hypertension.


Complications of pulmonary hypertension may be fatal without treatment and include heart arrhythmia, bleeding into the lungs, blood clots and heart failure.

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