Primary Pulmonary Hypertension

Primary pulmonary hypertension is a gradual increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary artery and vein. The pulmonary artery comes out of the heart and branches out to the two lungs. PPH is a condition that is a result of lung issues. The pulmonary arteries typically have lower blood pressure than might be taken in the arm. When the blood pressure rises from constriction it becomes more difficult for the heart to pump blood to the lungs. The stress can cause the right side of the heart to enlarge, eventually causing fluid to build up in the liver and in other places such as the legs. This hypertension (elevated blood pressure) is called primary because the condition is not caused by some other bodily system failure. Secondary pulmonary hypertension, which is much more common, is the result of some contributing factor.
Typically primary pulmonary hypertension or PPH occurs in younger persons and more in females than males. There are a number of causes for this condition such as liver disease, HIV, a certain form of lupus, and a number of other conditions. Additionally sleep apnea can also contribute to this condition because the continued sleep interruption all night long contributes to low blood oxygen levels. Often blood clots and lung problems such as emphysema and COPD are also contributors to PPH. A now banned weight loss drug called Fen/Phen has recently been linked to another cause for PPH. This weight loss drug was very popular in the 1990’s but has been off the market since about 1998.

Many people who have developed PPH don’t have any symptoms early on, but as the condition worsen, it begins to affect breathing, with the sufferer experiencing shortness of breath that usually heightens when activity is attempted. Additionally, symptoms of primary pulmonary hypertension include a persistent cough, fatigue and/or dizziness. As the condition continues to get worse, fluid may build in the legs causing heaviness in the legs and chest may also accompany this fluid buildup. Upon being examined with a stethoscope, a health practitioner may hear louder than usual heart sounds. Having such a condition is a stark reminder of the fact that we all hang on to life by a thin thread. God has determined that at the end of life, all mankind has an appointment. “And as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9 :27)

Often a trained medical person will notice the chest wall is elevated called right ventricular heave. If it is suspected, a number of tests will probably be run to confirm the suspicions. A chest X-ray, elector and echo cardiogram will be run along with other tests to find out if indeed there is primary pulmonary hypertension. An intensive look at the function of the right side of the heart will be conducted. Every effort will be taken to see if there is any kind of obstruction in the pulmonary artery system.

A drug therapy will certainly be one of the main therapies that will be offered by a physician in treating this condition. There is no treatment to stop the progression of the disease but common drugs used for controlling systemic blood pressure are also used for primary pulmonary hypertension. Vasodilators which widen blood vessels may be used or diuretic drugs may be employed to restrict fluid pressure on the heart. But it is often a fishing expedition by the physician to get the right combination of drugs to lower the PPH. It is quite normal that as the disease progresses, there will be the need to recalibrate the drug therapy.

Women between the ages of twenty and forty are the most prominent demographic group affected by primary pulmonary hypertension. Part of this narrow demographic band of females may well be due to their use of the drug Fen/Phen and medical experts say there is a latency of as much as ten years after ending use of the drug before the first symptoms of PPH surface. There has been a rash of television commercials by attorneys from around the country urging those who have used the diet drug and contracting this condition to call and join in lawsuits against the manufacturer. There are others who didn’t take the diet drugs of the nineties who may also be susceptible to contracting this condition. Cocaine use, HIV and pregnancy can bring PPH on and in about ten percent of the cases; medical profession thought is that PPH runs in families.

For others who have the condition, research shows that those with Reynaud’s disease are more likely to get primary pulmonary hypertension. This is a disease which causes fingers and toes to turn blue when they get cold because their blood vessels appear to be highly sensitive to lower temperatures. No matter what the cause is, it is critical that those who have the condition get immediate medical attention because life expectancies can be lowered dramatically without treatment. Once the diagnosis has been made, the circumstances dictate that the patient locate a physician that has had experience in treating this condition. Since only about a thousand new cases are opened each year across the United States, this is not a run of the mill common occurrence. There are physicians in every state that have treated primary pulmonary hypertension and they can easily be found online on websites that deal with PPH issues.