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Pulmonary hypertension is high pressure in the blood vessels that carry blood into the lungs. This strains the lungs and heart and can lead to serious problems.
Systemic hypertension means the pressure is too high in blood vessels throughout the body. A person with pulmonary hypertension may also have systemic hypertension.
The cause of pulmonary hypertension is sometimes unknown. But it is most often caused by another health problem. In many cases, controlling this health problem can help prevent or control pulmonary hypertension. Some of the most common causes of pulmonary hypertension are:
Severe lung problems in a newborn
Lung conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or interstitial lung disease
Congenital heart defects
Other conditions, such as scleroderma, lupus, or sickle cell disease
Lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), advanced bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, or pulmonary fibrosis
Blood clots in the lungs
Left-sided heart failure
Symptoms may come on suddenly. Or, they may come on slowly over time. Symptoms can include:
Shortness of breath
Blue lips or fingernails (signs that the body is having trouble getting oxygen)
Tiring quickly, especially when active
Swelling in the legs or ankles
Chest pain or pressure
Fainting or dizzy spells
The doctor will examine you and listen to your heart and lungs. Your blood pressure will also be measured. Tests may be done as well. These may include:
Blood tests. These measure certain body functions. They also check for problems such as infection.
A chest x-ray. This takes a picture of the inside of the chest. It can show certain heart and lung problems.
An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). This test records the heart’s electrical activity.
An echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart.
Pulmonary function tests. These tests measure breathing and lung capacity.
Cardiac catheterization. This procedure gives detailed information about the heart’s structures. A thin tube (catheter) is put into a blood vessel and guided into the heart. Certain blood pressure tests are then done.
Treatment depends on your age, health, and the severity of your symptoms. Any underlying health problems you have will be treated. Treatment may also include:
Medication to lower the pressure in the lung blood vessels
Medication to help the body lose excess water
Medication to prevent blood clots
Most people do well after treatment. In rare cases, a lung transplant may be needed. Your doctor can tell you more about this if needed.
Persistent blueness of lips or fingernails
Fever of 100.4°F or higher