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An Overview of Primary Pulmonary Hypertension

Feb 29, 2008
Primary pulmonary hypertension is a relatively rare disease that occurs when the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery raises high above normal levels. The pulmonary artery is responsible for carrying oxygen-depleted blood into the lungs, where it will become oxygenated; flow back through the heart and go to the various areas of the body through the aorta.

This change in blood pressure can result in changes to the small blood vessels in the lungs, and it can put strain on the right ventricle since it will now have to work harder to move the blood into the lungs for oxygenation.

Primary pulmonary hypertension is a somewhat rare disease to encounter, with only around 500-1000 cases diagnosed in the United States every year. This makes PPH a difficult disease to understand and diagnose, because few doctors will have much exposure to the disease throughout their careers.

The cause of the disease can also be elusive, although some cases have been attributed to a genetic predisposition, a disease of the immune system, exposure to certain chemicals and use of some types of medications. One culprit that is thought to contribute to the incidence of primary pulmonary hypertension is the use of appetite suppressants that contain the drug fen phen.

Symptoms of primary pulmonary hypertension can be somewhat vague, particularly in the early stages since the disease tends to progress slowly. Some symptoms might include shortness of breath, especially after exertion. A patient might also suffer from extreme fatigue, dizziness, fainting spells, swelling in the legs and ankles and chest pain.

A diagnosis is often made through a cardiac catheterization, in which a doctor inserts a thin tube through a vein in the arm or leg and threads it to the heart and the pulmonary artery. In most cases, the earlier the disease is detected and treatment is begun, the better the prognosis is for the patient.

Treatment of primary pulmonary hypertension varies greatly, depending on when you are diagnosed with the illness. PPH cannot be cured, but the symptoms of the disease can often be managed with the help of medication and/or surgical procedures. In extreme cases, a lung or heart/lung transplant may be necessary for patients who do not respond well to the medications provided.

Primary pulmonary hypertension is a potentially serious disease with no known cure. However, an early diagnosis and treatment can help a patient to manage the disease most effectively. If you suspect that you are suffering from primary pulmonary hypertension, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis today.
About the Author
Nick Johnson is lead counsel with Johnson Law Group. Johnson represents plaintiffs in many states and focuses on injury cases involving Fen-Phen and PPH, Paxil, Mesothelioma, and Avandia. Call Nick Johnson at 1-888-311-5522 or visit http://www.johnsonlawgroup.com
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