What is Pulmonary Hypertension?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2018
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Pulmonary hypertension is a form of high blood pressure that has to do with the flow of blood through the lungs and the right side of the heart. While hypertension in general has to do with the flow of blood through all the arterial systems of the body from the left side of the heart, pulmonary hypertension exists when there is a problem with the flow of blood through the pulmonary arteries and capillaries in the lungs. Generally, there is some type of blockage or collapse of the arterial system in the lungs that leads to the development of this type of hypertension.

It is possible for pulmonary hypertension to be present for a number of years before the condition becomes apparent. Many of the symptoms may be barely noticeable at first. As the condition worsens, the symptoms become more noticeable and begin to impact the quality of life. While the symptoms vary somewhat in type and severity, there is a core group of warning signs that should be taken very seriously.


Common symptoms for pulmonary hypertension center around a decreased capacity and energy level. The patient may begin to experience shortness of breath while participating in light exercise. Periods of fatigue may begin to appear for no apparent reason. The lips and skin may begin to take on a slightly blue tint. Fainting or dizziness is common with pulmonary hypertension, as is discomfort in the chest and an increased pulse while in a sedentary position.

Fortunately, diagnosing pulmonary hypertension is relatively easy to accomplish. Common methods include the use of an echocardiogram or a right heart catheterization. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination can also help isolate the condition. As computer technology continues to evolve, the use of non-invasive methods to diagnose pulmonary hypertension have become more common.

The process of diagnosis includes classifying the type of pulmonary hypertension that is present. If the symptoms are present only when engaging in some type of activity, the condition is considered to be Type II. When the symptoms are present even when the individual is resting, that is understood to be Type IV pulmonary hypertension.

Some forms of pulmonary hypertension can be treated with the use of prescription medication and lifestyle changes that include a healthier diet and some form of exercise that is in keeping with the type of pulmonary hypertension that is present. In some cases, surgery may be required to clear blockages. Transplant surgery is sometimes used in the most serious of cases.



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