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Pulmonary Hypertension Causes and Symptoms

What causes Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension? Certain conditions appear to increase your chances of developing PAH. They include:

  • Use of appetite suppressants, especially fenfluramine (fen-'flur-&-"mEn) and dexfenfluramine (deks-'fen-flur-&-"mEn)
  • Chronic use of cocaine or amphetamines
  • HIV infection
  • Liver disease
  • Connective tissue diseases such as scleroderma or lupus erythematosus

Doctors do not know what causes PPH, although it is inherited in some people. Recently, researchers discovered a defect in a gene that can lead to changes in the pulmonary arteries like those seen in PPH. They think that other genes may be involved as well. As we learn more about how different genes work in the development of PPAH, better treatments and perhaps a preventive treatment or cure will be found.

SPH is caused by a variety of conditions. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the most common cause in adults.

Other conditions that can lead to SPH include:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Chronic blood clots in the pulmonary artery

PAH affects men and women in all age ranges, from very young children to seniors, and people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

PPH is most common in women in their 30's and men in their 40's. Twice as many cases are reported in women as in men.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension?

Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath (dyspnea) is the main symptom of PAH. You may feel that it is difficult to get enough air.

Other common symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting spells (syncope)
  • Swelling in the ankles or legs (edema)
  • Bluish lips and skin (cyanosis)
  • Chest pain
  • Racing pulse
  • Palpitations (a strong feeling of a fast heartbeat)

As the disease advances:

  • The pumping action of your heart grows weaker
  • Your energy decreases

In the more advanced stages, you

  • Are able to perform very little activity
  • Have symptoms even when resting
  • May become completely bedridden.

Limitations on Physical Activity

Doctors may classify your symptoms based on how much activity you can comfortably undertake. The classes are the same as those for heart failure. They are:

  • Class 1: No limits--ordinary physical activity does not cause undue tiredness or shortness of breath.
  • Class 2: Slight or mild limits--comfortable at rest, but ordinary physical activity results in tiredness or shortness of breath.
  • Class 3: Marked or noticeable limits--comfortable at rest, but less than ordinary physical activity causes tiredness or shortness of breath.
  • Class 4: Severe limits--unable to carry on any physical activity without discomfort. Symptoms may also present at rest. If any physical activity is undertaken, discomfort increases.

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