Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure in the blood vessels, leading from the heart to the lungs.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a specific form of pulmonary hypertension where the small arteries in the lungs become narrow or blocked. This makes it harder for blood to flow through them, causing blood pressure in the lungs to increase. The heart also needs to work harder to pump blood through the lungs, which can weaken heart muscles and cause heart failure. It is a rare condition that slowly gets worse and can be life-threatening.
Stages of pulmonary hypertension
Doctors classify pulmonary hypertension into 4 stages, with mild to severe symptoms:
Stage 1 — You do not experience any symptoms, even during physical activity.
Stage 2 — You do not experience symptoms at rest. However, you may experience fatigue, shortness of breath or chest pain during activity.
Stage 3 — You may feel some symptoms at rest, but they are not severe enough to make you uncomfortable. The symptoms are more apparent when you engage in physical activity.
Stage 4 — At this stage, you have severe pulmonary hypertension which disrupts your daily activities. Your symptoms occur both at rest and during physical activity. You are also easily exhausted.
What are the symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension?
In the early stages, you may not notice any symptoms. As the disease progresses, you will start to experience symptoms such as:
Dizziness or fainting spells
Increased shortness of breath, initially while you are exercising and eventually even when you are at rest
Edema, or swelling of your ankles, legs and eventually your abdomen and neck
Racing pulse or heart palpitations
Your lips and skin turning bluish
What causes pulmonary arterial hypertension?
The causes of pulmonary arterial hypertension depend on the type of pulmonary hypertension involved:
Idiopathic or primary pulmonary hypertension
The cause of idiopathic or primary pulmonary hypertension is unknown.
Secondary pulmonary hypertension
Secondary pulmonary hypertension is linked to known risk factors and underlying diseases such as: