Pulmonary Hypertension, Explained in Under 2 Minutes

Your pulmonary arteries carry blood from the heart to the lungs.

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Hypertension is something the United States is well aware of: It affects almost half of U.S. adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As you may already know, this refers to elevated pressure of blood against the walls of your arteries—most commonly known as high blood pressure.

Pulmonary hypertension, on the other hand, is a little different. It specifically refers to the blood pressure on your pulmonary arteries. These are the massive arteries that carry blood from the heart to the lungs, where the blood gets infused with oxygen.

Blood pressure in your pulmonary arteries (and all of your arteries in general) require a delicate balance to function well. They need enough blood pressure to keep blood flowing, but not so much pressure that it starts to damage the artery walls.

If the blood pressure in these arteries creeps up too high, that’s pulmonary hypertension. It can run in families and occur for no known reason, but more often, it’s caused by heart or lung diseases.

How Pulmonary Hypertension Affects Health

Hypertension in the pulmonary arteries requires the heart to work harder, and this can weaken and damage the heart muscle over time. This puts your heart at risk for arrhythmias or heart failure.

Additionally, pulmonary hypertension can cause symptoms that can affect your quality of life. You may feel lightheaded, short of breath, and tired, even with mild physical activity. You may also notice chest pain or a racing heartbeat.

Treatment for Pulmonary Hypertension

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for pulmonary hypertension. In extreme cases, a lung transplant may be appropriate, which can significantly improve your lung health and quality of life.

However, most people with pulmonary hypertension benefit from medications that can help reduce symptoms. Treating the underlying heart or lung disease may also be beneficial. For some patients, oxygen therapy to improve oxygen levels may be necessary.

Feeling short of breath? Talk to your doctor to pinpoint the problem, and if necessary, begin treatment. (Here are other possible causes of shortness of breath.)