Pulmonary Hypertension: Prognosis and Life Expectancy

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  • What Is Pulmonary Hypertension?

    What Is Pulmonary Hypertension?

    Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a serious health condition that results when the arteries carrying blood to the lungs are constricted, disrupting blood flow. Blood must travel through the lungs to pick up oxygen that it can deliver to all the organs, muscles, and tissue in the body.

    When the arteries between the heart and lungs become narrowed or flow is constricted, the heart has to work overtime to pump blood to the lungs. Over time, the heart can grow weak and circulation will diminish throughout the body.

  • Pulmonary Hypertension Types

    Pulmonary Hypertension Types

    There are three types of PH:

    • pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH): associated with liver disease, AIDS, connective tissue disease, and the diet drug “fen-phen”
    • secondary PH: linked to problems such as heart disease or lung disease. Clots in the pulmonary blood vessels may also lead to secondary PH.
    • idiopathic PH: resulting diagnosis when the cause remains unknown.

    All types of PH require medical attention. Treating the cause of PH can often help slow the disease’s progression.

    Think it might be pulmonary arterial hypertension? Learn the symptoms of PAH »

  • Disease Progression

    Disease Progression

    There is currently no cure for PH. It’s a progressive disease, which means that it can advance quickly. If left untreated, the disease can be life threatening within a couple of years.

    However, the disease can be managed. Some patients can make lifestyle changes and monitor their health. But for many patients, PH can lead to heart failure and their overall health can be in great danger. Medications and lifestyle modifications are intended to slow the progression of the disease.

  • Survival Rates

    Survival Rates

    In cases where PH goes untreated, the long-term outlook is grim. There is a 68 percent chance of survival after one year. The survival odds drop to 34 percent after five years, according to the Ohio State University Lung Center.

    If you have PH and scleroderma, a skin disease that also affects the small arteries, your two-year survival odds are 40 percent, according to a 2008 study published in Annals of Thoracic Medicine. Survival rates with PH depend on the cause of the condition. 

  • Treatment

    Treatment

    Treatments for PH vary depending on the cause of the condition. If you have severe mitral valve disease, surgery to repair or replace your mitral valve may help improve your PH. 

    In many cases, medications that help relax the blood vessels are prescribed. These include calcium-channel blockers, which are also used to treat traditional hypertension. 

    Other drugs that help improve blood flow are phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, such as sildenafil (Viagra). These drugs help improve blood flow and reduce the heart’s burden of working overtime to pump enough blood to the lungs.

  • Other Medications and Treatments

    Other Medications and Treatments

    Other medications commonly used to treat PH include digoxin, which helps the heart beat stronger. Digoxin is also used to treat heart failure.

    Excess fluid can build up in the feet and ankles of PH patients, so diuretics are prescribed to help bring a person’s fluid levels back to normal. Oxygen therapy may also be required to help increase oxygen levels in the blood.

    Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are also essential to long-term PH treatment.

  • Heart-Lung Transplant

    Heart-Lung Transplant

    Heart-lung transplants offer the only hope for the most serious cases of PH. A lung transplant is performed on patients who also have lung disease. A heart-lung transplant may be necessary if the heart and lungs can no longer function well enough to keep you alive.

    Healthy organs can be implanted, but transplant surgery has its risks. It’s a complicated operation, and there is always a waiting list for healthy organs.

  • Support Is Available

    Support Is Available

    If you have PH, talk with your health care provider about support groups in your area. Because PH can restrict your physical activities, it often leads to emotional complications too. You may want to talk with a mental health provider to deal with these issues. And remember: your prognosis with PH can be improved if you get early treatment.

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