Medical and Lifestyle Treatments for PAH Disease

Medical and Lifestyle Treatments for PAH Disease

Pamela Bandelaria |Sep 8, 2021

PAH Disease

Hypertension is a common illness in adulthood. Many people have it, but what many people do not usually know is that there are many kinds of hypertension. Pulmonary artery hypertension (PAH disease) is one such example. Have you heard about it before? PAH disease is important to know about because if it is not detected early and treated promptly, it can worsen through the years and be life-threatening. This article will discuss what pulmonary artery hypertension is, its causes, symptoms and treatment.

What is PAH Disease?

The pulmonary artery is responsible for carrying deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs. Once in the lungs, the blood is oxygenated before returning to the heart through the pulmonary vein. Pulmonary artery hypertension occurs when the pulmonary artery is narrowed or thickened. This causes an increase in the pressure in the lungs, causing your heart to work extra hard to be able to continually pump blood throughout the body. If the pressure is consistently high for a long period of time, the heart muscle will compensate initially, but then eventually will deteriorate, leading to heart failure and death.

Pulmonary artery hypertension usually occurs in women aged 30 to 60. It is not as common as other illnesses, with around 500 to 1,000 cases of pulmonary artery hypertension being diagnosed in the U.S. yearly.

What Causes PAH?

Stress and pressure in the arteries have many causes. Hypertension is a multifactorial disease, there is no single entity that causes it. Mostly the cause is idiopathic, or unknown, but there are certain risk factors that can increase one’s chances of having pulmonary artery hypertension.

It’s been found that genetics have a role in the occurrence of the disease. PAH is inherited in around 15% to 20% of cases. In other cases, a specific cause can be identified. Conditions that cause a strain in your blood pressure include:

  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Congenital heart diseases (such as heart valve disorders).
  • Blood clots in the lungs.
  • Emphysema.
  • Chronic bronchitis.
  • Pulmonary fibrosis.

Other illnesses such as autoimmune conditions (lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis) can also have pulmonary artery hypertension as a complication. Infections such as HIV can cause inflammation in the arteries leading to narrowing and constriction of the blood vessels. Drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine can also cause this.

What Are the Symptoms of PAH?

The signs and symptoms of PAH disease can be long-standing. They may be undetected for months or years and only appear when the condition worsens as the disease progresses. This is because initially, the heart compensates to try to keep blood from continuously flowing. During this time the affected person does not feel anything or may feel something but will not seek to consult immediately. As the condition progresses, the pressure eventually becomes too high to a point where the heart will not be able to function properly and will give out. This is the time that signs and symptoms are usually evident and sometimes it is detected too late.

Early signs and symptoms suggesting pulmonary artery hypertension include:

  • Shortness of breath that initially occurs upon strenuous activity such as exercise. This eventually worsens to shortness of breath and difficulty of breathing even when at rest.
  • Fatigue or dizziness.
  • Chest pain.

Late signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Fainting.
  • Swelling (medically termed edema) can be seen in the legs and abdomen, which is suggestive of heart failure.
  • The severe difficulty of breathing with bluish discoloration (cyanosis) of the lips, nail beds, or skin.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

In addition to medications, there are other nonmedical strategies that can be done to prevent and prolong the worsening of this condition. These include:

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

Constant monitoring of your blood pressure and pulse. It is important to have normal blood pressure and pulse because abnormal values may indicate stress and strain on the heart.

Incorporate an Exercise Routine

Regular exercise and maintaining a body weight that is within the normal range. This is important because a sedentary lifestyle is not helpful for the heart. Furthermore, any excess weight can add an extra burden to the heart, so it is important to keep within the normal range. This can be done by eating healthy and exercising regularly.

Avoid Smoking and Alcohol

Having a healthy lifestyle without vices. Smoking and alcohol are well-known to contribute to hypertension. Because the cause of any form of hypertension is multifactorial by nature, it is important to avoid these substances as they can increase your chances of having the condition. Further, it can worsen the condition and hasten the appearance of complications.

Medical Treatment

There is no cure for pulmonary artery hypertension, and affected people deal with it throughout the remainder of their life. Pulmonary artery hypertension, especially when presenting with symptoms, is treated medically. It is hard to manage this condition without giving any form of medication. The goal of medication is to lessen the pressure in the blood vessels of the heart and lungs to avoid any stress or strain on the heart. The medications are able to manage the symptoms and allow affected people to have an improved quality of life.

There are a lot of medications that can be prescribed, all acting on different receptors and having different effects. Some medications relax the blood vessels directly, which addresses the problem of the narrowing of blood vessels. Other medications decrease the swelling or edema so that the heart will not be overloaded with fluids. Other medications are anticoagulants which prevent blood clots. If the condition is found to be too severe to be treated with medications, transplant surgery is advised.

In Conclusion

Even if it is not as common, it is important to know what pulmonary artery hypertension is. Because it is a progressive disorder, it is sometimes detected too late. By knowing about it and spreading information, more cases can be detected, earlier avoiding irreversible complications.

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