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To understand pulmonary hypertension, it’s good to first know how the respiratory and circulatory systems work together. Keep in mind that the left and right sides of the heart have essentially different jobs.
With pulmonary hypertension, the small arteries in the lung become narrowed or blocked. The heart therefore has to work harder to push the blood through the narrower passageways in the lungs, creating a higher pressure within the pulmonary artery. This higher pressure is pulmonary hypertension.
Pulmonary hypertension can be grouped into one of two categories, depending on what we know about what is causing it:
This diagnosis means that the pulmonary hypertension is thought to be caused by or associated with something else. Possibilities include:
It’s extremely important to learn whether your child’s PH is idiopathic or secondary, and if secondary, what is causing it – this is how your child’s doctor will determine the treatment plan.
Unfortunately, it’s a complicated question. We know that PH occurs when the heart has to work extra hard to move blood through the very small vessels of the pulmonary artery to the lungs, eventually causing the heart muscle to weaken. At the most physical level, this might occur for one or both of two reasons:
There are fewer of these small vessels. This may be because:
The vessels are smaller than normal in diameter. This may be due to:
Researchers aren’t sure why these things happen, but many people group together types of PH based on presumed cause – keep reading for more information.
Initial symptoms of PH are often minor, but slowly get worse over time. These symptoms can also occur as parts of other diseases, which can make it challenging for doctors to detect PH early. Be sure to consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms.
The most common signs and symptoms of pulmonary hypertension are:
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