Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a serious lung disease that can be fatal if left untreated. PAH is caused by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs and it affects mainly adults between 30-60 years old.
The signs and symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension are often confounding, but knowing them may help you detect this life-threatening condition early on. Here we discuss 7 common signs of pulmonary arterial hypertension:
The shortness of breath in pulmonary arterial hypertension is caused by high blood pressure in the lungs. The increased pressure also reduces the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry to organs and tissues. This may lead to fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, or heart palpitations when you are active. It may also cause swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, arms, or abdomen. This is because the congested blood vessels in the lungs can't properly remove fluids from these areas which leads to swelling.
Shortness of breath is most commonly reported with PAH, but there are other pulmonary conditions that can also cause it, like asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Shortness of breath can be caused by several factors, so make sure you ask your doctor about the most common ones before you assume you have PAH.
Swelling occurs because there is fluid leaking into the tissues from damaged vessels that are restricting blood flow to important organs. Other symptoms that may accompany swelling include pale skin and weight gain even though there isn't an increase in appetite (a new diet and exercise routine will do more harm than good in pulmonary arterial hypertension patients). Swelling in the feet, legs, arms, abdomen or chest can also lead to other serious health problems because it decreases blood volume which carries oxygen to your organs.
The high pressure in the arteries forces the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. This can lead to an increased heart rate, especially during physical activity or when you are stressed. You may also feel an irregular heartbeat (palpitations) or chest pain. This can also lead to weight loss and a decreased appetite for people with this condition because they don't feel like eating due to the shortness of breath and fatigue. This can lead to malnutrition and other health problems if it's not treated.
A persistent cough is often one of the earliest signs of pulmonary arterial hypertension, even before shortness of breath develops. The cough may be dry and unproductive at first, but it can become more severe and produce phlegm as the disease progresses. Coughing persistently can also lead to chest pain and fatigue which are the other signs of pulmonary arterial hypertension. Pulmonary function tests can help your doctor determine if you have this condition.
Fatigue is a common symptom in all types of lung diseases, but it is especially severe in pulmonary arterial hypertension. This is because the high pressure in the lungs reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the body's tissues. You may feel constantly tired, especially during physical activity, and you may need to sleep more than usual to get enough rest.
Dizziness occurs when there is insufficient blood flow to the brain, which is often caused by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. It can also be accompanied by headaches and fainting spells. This is common in pulmonary arterial hypertension because the condition reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain.
The lack of oxygen reaching tissues such as your lips and fingernails may cause them to turn blue, especially if you are physically active or under emotional stress. You may also see small red spots on your skin (petechiae) that occur because of broken capillaries and excessive bruising (purpura). It is also important to note that not everyone with pulmonary arterial hypertension experiences this specific symptom.
If you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension, it is important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early detection and intervention can improve your prognosis. Pulmonary arterial hypertension can be fatal if left untreated, so it is important to get help as soon as possible.