In pulmonary hypertension, the blood vessels constrict, becoming narrow and thick. This means less blood is able to flow through the blood vessels. When this happens, pressure within the vessels builds up and the heart muscle must work harder to force the blood through. When the pressure becomes too high, the heart can't keep up and less blood is circulated through the lungs. This results in less oxygen to the entire body.
Signs and Symptoms
- Shortness of breath at first with activity and eventually at rest
- Chest pain
- Fainting or near-fainting
- Swelling of the legs
To find out more about signs and symptoms of pulmonary hypertension, visit About.com's Symptom Checker, an interactive tool to help you learn more about your symptoms.
There are two forms of pulmonary hypertension: primary and secondary. Primary pulmonary hypertension is uncommon and the exact cause is unknown. A diagnosis is made when all other causes have been ruled out.
Secondary pulmonary hypertension occurs far more frequently and is caused by the presence of an existing heart or lung disease, with COPD topping the list of most common causes.
A diagnosis is made the following ways:
- Thorough history and physical exam
- Chest x-ray
- CT of the Chest
- Heart catheterization
- Perfusion lung scan
- Pulmonary function tests
- Pulmonary Arteriogram
- Lung biopsy
American Heart Association. 2008.