There are two main sets of blood vessels that reside in the human body that are responsible for carrying blood from the heart to the body. One set pumps blood to the lungs from the right side of the heart, the other set pumps blood from the left side of the heart into the rest of the body. Pulmonary hypertension will occur when the right side of the heart has to work harder in order to pump this necessary blood into the lungs. This stress that is placed on the heart can lead to an enlarged heart leading to fluid build-up in other tissues, organs and in other parts of the body such as the legs.
Pulmonary hypertension is generally caused when the arteries within the heart begin to narrow or stiffen. There are many underlying factors that can cause this to happen including certain conditions and/or diseases such as emphysema, scleroderma and more severe forms of lupus. Diseases of the heart and lungs that result in chronic low blood oxygen levels are also a cause of pulmonary hypertension.
The most common symptom associated with pulmonary hypertension is a shortness of breath that worsens with activity. In addition, cough, dizziness, fatigue and a feeling of lethargicness are also signs of pulmonary hypertension. Because the heart is working extra hard to pump blood into the body, fluid build-up can occur and a swelling of the legs may persist.
The treatment for pulmonary hypertension will depend on the underlying cause. If the left side of the heart is failing, a cardiologist will need to evaluate the organ in order to diagnose and treat this potential life threatening heart condition. If the condition is caused by a problem within the lungs, such as COPD, then a lung specialist can provide oxygen and medication to help. There are many medications on the market that can help overcome or at least manage the symptoms associated with pulmonary hypertension.