Monday, 3 June 2013

What is Pulmonary Hypertension?

Basically it just means you have very narrow pulmonary arteries, which are the arteries in the lungs involved in the oxygen exchange. When these arteries are very thin (usually due to an overgrowth of the lining of the arteries) it creates a back log of pressure, which the heart then has to cope with. I have drawn you a diagram. Excuse the quality, drawing on a painting app is really difficult!

This is a normal heart and lungs - observe the blood flowing easily through the pulmonary arteries

This is the heart and lungs of someone with Pulmonary Hypertension - observe the enlarged right ventricle and how the blood has much less space to flow through the pulmonary arteries. 

PH is a relatively simple disease to explain but extremely hard to treat and to live with. The lack of blood flowing to the lungs to be oxygenated cause the sufferer tiredness, breathlessness, chest pain and all sorts of nasty symptoms.

As for how it's caused, no one quite knows. If you have an existing heart condition, like I do, it is certain that it developed because of that. However those who get it without ever being ill before never get an explanation as to why they have it. It is often triggered by pregnancy in women, again they do not know why but there is evidence that the hormone oestrogen makes pulmonary hypertension worse and this could be the reason why women get it after having a baby. But it's a disease anyone can develop at any point in their life. Mine was brought on by my heart disease and although it is common to have heart disease with pulmonary hypertension it is not common to have pulmonary hypertension just because you have heart disease. That is to say that having congenital heart disease does not mean that you have pulmonary hypertension although it does increase your chances of getting it.The disease is extremely rare. About 2 in every million people have secondary pulmonary hypertension, which is the type you get from having an existing condition (the type I have). Primary pulmonary hypertension, which is when the disease comes out of nowhere, is a tiny bit more common but not by much.
Doctors believe that a cure is not impossible. Perhaps one day with continuing research they might come up with a cure or even a drug to stop it progressing. We can hope!

If you would like to know more about Pulmonary Hypertension, or if you suffer from it yourself, here are some organisations, which will offer you more information and advice. For the UK vist and for the US visit and if you are from another country I'm sure you will be able to find an organisation near you with the help of google.

Thank you for reading!
Follow me so you don't miss an explanation of my heart disease in the near future!
Any comments or questions will be much appreciated!

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