As healthcare professionals, we hear a lot about hypertension and its negative effect on overall health. But, we don’t talk as much as we should about pulmonary hypertension (PH) — the type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries that run between the lungs and heart. Because PH is a progressive condition that if untreated can result in death in as little as two years, it deserves its own spotlight.
Here are 5 things we think every healthcare professional should know about PH.
1. PH is categorized into 5 groups
The World Health Organization (WHO) created this uniform grouping system based on the cause of the condition. Group 1 includes PH patients where the cause is genetic, unknown or is due to connective tissue diseases, HIV, sickle cell or congenital heart disease. Group 2 is for PH due to left heart disease. Group 3 is for PH related to chronic respiratory disorders. Group 4 is for PH due to blood clots in the lungs or clotting disorders. Group 5 PH is triggered by a blood disorder, metabolic disorder, or systemic disorder. Knowing which category a patient’s PH falls within is essential to developing a treatment plan since the cause is integral to treating the condition.
2. PH is most common among women, African-Americans, and elderly adults
According to the CDC, these three groups have the highest rate of PH in the United States. While the likelihood of developing the condition increases with age, it does affect patients of all ages. Researchers say more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year are due to PH.
3. Symptoms associated with PH include
Shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness or fainting spells, chest pain, swelling of the legs and ankles, cyanosis, a racing heartbeat and heart palpitations. Patients who maintain a healthy weight, lower their sodium intake, quit smoking, stay active, and approach air travel cautiously can help to improve their symptoms.
4. Diagnosing PH
A variety of cardiovascular tests may be used to determine PH including blood tests, chest x-rays, cardiac MRI, echocardiogram and right heart catheterization. In a healthy individual, pulmonary artery blood pressure is about 25/10 mm Hg. Whenever the pulmonary arterial pressure exceeds approximately 40/20 mm Hg or the average pressure exceeds 25 mm Hg, then PH is indicated.
5. Treating PH
As mentioned earlier, the cause of a patient’s PH will guide the course of treatment for the condition. Drugs that help certain blood vessels relax and improve blood flow are commonly prescribed for patients with PH. In severe cases, lung transplantation may be recommended.
To learn more about PH and its various treatments, visit the Pulmonary Hypertension Association website.