Pulmonary hypertension: what it is, how to recognize and deal with it

Pulmonary hypertension: what it is, how to recognize and deal with it

Characteristic of pulmonary hypertension is oxygen-poor blood. It is essential not to overlook the alarm bells

When we talk about hypertension, our thoughts immediately turn to the measurement, the recommended values, the minimum and maximum, the risks for the heart, but we must not forget that there is also another form of hypertension, which mainly affects women (about four out of five cases involve women) and must be recognized in time. It is called pulmonary hypertension and should be known, also and above all to better address it.

Blood is poor in oxygen

At first glance, for those who suffer from it, one can also think of a form of heart failure or chronic bronchitis. You breathe with difficulty, you have the classic breathlessness even after a light effort. Then, at times, an annoying feeling of heaviness arrives in the belly and the ankles tend to swell. As you can see, the picture is not so simple to interpret.

Attention must be paid to the first alarm bells, which are observed with physical effort, even as trivial as having to climb a few steps or get dressed. But we must not forget that early diagnosis is fundamental: in fact, initially the disease is asymptomatic and when the symptoms appear the disease has already progressed.

However, there is a common feature for this situation: the circulating blood is poor in oxygen and therefore the disease affects the heart and lungs at the same time, due to an increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries.

Diagnosis is achieved through numerous tests such as echocardiography, spirometry, CT scan of the chest with and without contrast, ventilo / perfusion scintigraphy and right heart catheterization. But doing the exams is not enough, it is also necessary that expert eyes read them to recognize the problem because early diagnosis is a fundamental weapon to better manage the treatment opportunities available.

Previously it was said that this disease was 'orphan of diagnosis' because patients arrived there with years of delay as the symptoms of the disease are subtle and often mistaken for something else, dismissed as stress or even as excessive laziness. Fortunately, patients are now being referred more quickly to specialists and referral centers in order to have a diagnosis earlier.

How to cope

A tailor-made treatment is required for each individual case, also because there are different options based on the characteristics of the switchboard. For the thromboembolic form (Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension – CTEPH) there is a surgical solution (pulmonary endarterectomy) or interventional (pulmonary angioplasty). In fact, in this situation it is necessary to eliminate the mechanical cause that is related to the pressure increase.

For classic pulmonary arterial hypertension, on the other hand, we now have increasingly effective drugs with different routes of administration. The important thing is to arrive early and rely on specialists who can indicate a personalized treatment, designed on the needs of those who suffer. The expert can also define the specific risk, through different parameters, and then establish the degree of advancement of the disease to adopt the best therapeutic strategy.

Category: Health
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