Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a disease that damages the arteries of the lungs. By simple definition, it is high blood pressure in the lungs. That said, it is not simple to diagnose. A complex and chronic illness, pulmonary hypertension is relatively rare.

Normally, blood pressure in the lungs is low and the blood flows easily. The vessels can, however, become constricted, scarred or blocked. This causes the pressure to increase, resulting in pulmonary hypertension, which affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart. Over time, pulmonary hypertension may cause your heart muscle to weaken and sometimes fail completely.

What causes pulmonary hypertension?
Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is an all-encompassing term for two types of disease.

Primary pulmonary hypertension is often called idiopathic pulmonary hypertension. An underlying cause cannot be found. For some people, idiopathic PH is genetic because family members have had the disease. Primary pulmonary hypertension is more common in women than men, especially for women aged 20 to 40.

Secondary pulmonary hypertension results directly from another medical problem and is more common than the idiopathic strain. Medical conditions that may lead to secondary pulmonary hypertension include:

  • Blood clots in the lungs
  • Heart failure
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Rheumatologic disease (disease that affects the joints, muscles or tendons) such as lupus or scleroderma
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • HIV


  • Shortness of breath, first and foremost—noticeable during physical activity, and as the disease progresses, breathlessness at rest
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fainting or passing out
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles

Other signs of pulmonary hypertension come from underlying conditions, such as coughing due to bronchitis, or bluish lips or skin in people with congenital heart disease. 

Pulmonary Hypertension Program


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