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Many people affected by pulmonary hypertension are able to lead productive and satisfying lives, in part because of advances in medical care and treatments. It is important that those affected by this illness keep themselves informed about the problem and understand the available treatments to improve their health and quality of life. They need to know that, without treatment, pulmonary hypertension can be a life-threatening illness (Figure).
What Is Pulmonary Hypertension?
Pulmonary hypertension is an abnormal elevation of the pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs. In fact, it could be called the “high blood pressure” of the lungs. In normal lungs, the pressure in the blood vessels is about one-quarter of the pressure in the arteries of the body and can temporarily adapt to increased pressures that occur during exercise. In pulmonary hypertension, the small arteries in the lungs are too narrow, so the pressure rises in these vessels. As a result, the right side of the heart, which pumps blood into the lungs, has to pump against a higher resistance to blood flow. This makes it more difficult to pump the blood through the lungs, particularly when increased flow is needed, as when a patient exercises.
What Causes Pulmonary Hypertension?
Many things can obstruct the passage of blood through the vessels in the lungs and lead to pulmonary hypertension. Some of the more common causes are:
congenital heart defects,
connective tissue disease (for example, scleroderma),
medication (for example, the …