Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, also known as PAH, is a condition in which the blood pressure in the pulmonary circulatory system gets abnormally high due to the narrowing of blood vessels or arteries. It is important to note that this condition is different from regular hypertension. It is known to worsen over time, and hence, patients exhibiting the symptoms associated with PAH must be treated with utmost care immediately. If not treated at the right time, PAH can result in weakening of the heart muscles, and can even cause heart failure. This article addresses the causes and symptoms of PAH that must be known by those who might be at risk of the disorder.
Some common causes of pulmonary arterial hypertension are as follows:
- Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction
In this condition, the blood vessels in the lungs constrict in order to avoid excessive blood flow to diseased cells of the lungs. This is exacerbated in conditions where the person isn’t getting enough oxygen for the body in case he/she is living in high altitude conditions, or if the person is suffering from obesity or sleep apnea. Certain heart-related conditions can also lead to constriction of blood vessels of the lungs.
Certain appetite suppressant medicines are known to cause vasoconstriction in the lungs, leading to hypertension. Due to this, drugs like dexfenfluramine and phentermine have been taken off the market.
In some rare cases, PAH can be inherited from one’s parents. If someone from the family is known to have the condition, it is important to be vigilant of any symptoms that occur in family members.
Once you are made aware of the probable causes, these are the signs and symptoms that must be watched out for when suspecting PAH:
- Hypoxia and shortness of breath
This is one of the first symptoms to be observed in someone suffering from PAH. Due to the narrowing of blood vessels, the simple activity of breathing can seem extremely labored and tedious.
- Chest pain
Persistent chronic pain in your chest may be a sign of PAH and can sometimes be associated with angina.
Since the blood is responsible for carrying oxygen through the body, PAH can lead to a decrease in blood flow to important organs of the body, causing a lack of oxygen in those parts of the body. This can sometimes lead to some dizziness or fatigue, especially due to lack of oxygen reaching your brain.
- Heart palpitations (racing or pounding)
An erratic heartbeat or pulse is a common symptom in people suffering from PAH and they often complain of a racing or pounding heartbeat.
- Swelling in the limbs
Some patients suffering from PAH often report painful swelling in the lower extremities like ankles, feet, and legs. This happens because toxic wastes from the body are not successfully eliminated from the system by the kidneys.