Get Knowledge About Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
There are several different types of pulmonary hypertension, but pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is the most serious of them all. That is because this condition is caused by damage to the small blood vessels in the lungs, which, in turn, damages the heart because it has to work harder to try to keep the blood oxygenated. Other types of pulmonary hypertension are caused by heart disease, hypoxemia, COPD, blood clots, and other disorders.
Since pulmonary arterial hypertension is rare and it has vague symptoms, it isn't easy to diagnose the condition. In fact, many people suffer from the health problems that it causes for years before a doctor finally figures out what is wrong. So those who have the highest risk of developing it should learn as much as they can about it to ensure that they have the best chance of survival possible.
The Risk Factors for PAH
PAH causes high blood pressure in the lungs and it can occur in a person who has a normal blood pressure reading when it is taken with a cuff on their arm. This can be confusing to some people who don't understand that the lungs have unique blood vessels that are closely tied to the heart's ability to pump blood. Because of the small size of the lung’s blood vessels, they can easily be damaged whenever a person uses illegal substances that increase the blood pressure in the whole body. This includes things like amphetamines. So people who suffer from drug addictions have a high risk of developing the condition, especially if they are a young woman or have a family history of PAH.
Signs You Should Talk to Your Doctor About PAH
The symptoms of PAH start out mild, and they tend to worsen over time. So doctors often can't tell that one of their patients has the condition until they complete an extensive amount of testing. Sometimes, the only way that a diagnosis of PAH is achieved is when a patient mentions that they have a family history of it or asks their doctor to do a screening to help rule it out. Because of this, it helps to let the doctor know if you have any of the following signs of the condition:
- Chest pain
- Edema in the legs, feet, and stomach
- Shortness of breath when moving or resting
Questions and Answers
This condition can be difficult to understand. So, in order to clarify it a little better, the following is a list of some of the questions that people often have about PAH and the answers that doctors commonly give to them:
Q: What tests are used to diagnose PAH?
A: First, a pulmonary function test will be done. Then, it will normally be followed up with an echocardiogram and a heart catheterization of the right portion of the heart.
Q: Do I need to see a specialist?
A: Because of the complexity of this lung disease, most general physicians are unable to treat a patient who has it. So they usually refer them to a pulmonologist and a cardiologist.
Q: How is PAH Treated?
A: There are several different medications that doctors can prescribe to help treat PAH. Some of them are blood thinners to prevent blood clots, endothelin receptor antagonists, diuretics, and vasodilators.
Q: What is the long-term prognosis of PAH?
A: If a person receives treatment as soon as their symptoms begin to present, they have a much higher survival rate. Those who don't get diagnosed in time may only live for a few years though because of the damage that the condition does to their heart.
Q: Can a person who has PAH still have an active lifestyle?
A: Because of the way that PAH causes fainting and reduces a person's energy level, it is often very difficult for them to be able to stay as active as they used to. A portable tank of supplemental oxygen can help make outings easier though.
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