Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the heart-to-lung system that delivers oxygenated blood to the heart while returning used (oxygen-depleted) blood back to the lungs.

Pulmonary blood pressure reflects the pressure the heart exerts to pump blood from the heart through the arteries of the lungs. In other words, it focuses on the pressure of the blood flow in your lungs.

Pulmonary blood pressure is normally a lot lower than systemic blood pressure. Normal pulmonary artery pressure is 8-20 mm Hg at rest. If the pressure in the pulmonary artery is greater than 25 mm Hg at rest or 30 mmHg during physical activity, it is abnormally high and is called pulmonary hypertension.

Similar to how systemic high blood pressure can cause the heart to work harder to deliver blood to the body, pulmonary hypertension can occur when the arteries in the lungs narrow and thicken, slowing the flow of blood through the pulmonary arteries to the lungs. As a result, the pressure in your arteries rises as your heart works harder to try to force the blood through. Heart failure occurs when the heart becomes too weak to pump enough blood to the lungs.

Early symptoms of PHT include:

  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
  • Lack of appetite

Later symptoms of PHT include:

  • Feeling light-headed, especially during physical activity 
  • Swelling in the ankles or legs
  • Bluish lips or skin
  • Fainting

Pulmonary hypertension can develop slowly, without early signs and symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may be attributed to asthma or other lung or heart conditions. To diagnose pulmonary hypertension, your doctor may ask about your symptoms and risk factors, including other medical conditions and family history. Having a family member with pulmonary hypertension increases your risk of developing the disease.

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