Primary Pulmonary Hypertension: A Summary

November 12, 2012

Primary Pulmonary Hypertension: A Summary

While many people are familiar with traditional cardiac hypertension, primary pulmonary hypertension is often overlooked. It can be fatal when left untreated.

An intact circulatory system is important for adequate blood flow to all parts of the body. Primary pulmonary hypertension occurs when there is an increase in pressure within the pulmonary artery. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients while also removing waste and carbon dioxide from the tissues. The pulmonary artery connects the heart to the lungs and allows the heart to pump blood into the lungs. The lungs will then oxygenate the blood while also removing excess carbon dioxide. In order to continue meeting the needs of the body, the heart will begin to work harder as resistance and pressure in the pulmonary artery rises.

Possible Causes

Primary pulmonary hypertension is a rare disorder. Because it has no known cause, this condition is often referred to as idiopathic pulmonary hypertension. The majority of PPH cases were found in women between the ages of twenty and forty. Even though it seems to favor this particular population, women and men of all ages can develop it. There are some ideas on what causes the increase in pressure. A number of drugs are thought to contribute to its development:

  • Redux

  • Fen Phen

  • Pondimin

These were all popular weight loss drugs which have been deemed dangerous by the FDA in the United States. Other causes of primary pulmonary hypertension include:

  • Microvascular changes in the blood vessels of the lungs

  • The narrowing of the artery connecting the heart and the lungs

Both of these events create a resistance in the specific area. As this resistance increases, the blood begins to back up and requires more effort to push through the artery. This causes the pressure to quickly increase because more force is needed to successfully move the blood. In essence, anything that will affect how easily the blood flows between the cardio-pulmonary circulatory loops can lead to pulmonary hypertension.

Treatment for Pulmonary Hypertension

Getting timely treatment for primary pulmonary hypertension is extremely important to the well being of the patient. While people can go years and years living with primary hypertension, pulmonary hypertension results in the failure of the right side of the heart. This is the area of the heart that is responsible for pumping the blood to the lungs. When it becomes overworked, the heart muscle weakens and will eventually fail. If this area fails, no blood can be moved into the lungs to get oxygenated and death will follow. On average, PPH sufferers without treatment passed away within three years of being diagnosed. Your doctor will go over the different methods that are available. Treatment options include medications and surgery.


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