Pulmonary hypertension is a chronic medical condition affecting the pulmonary arteries which carry blood from the heart to the lungs. An increased pressure (>=25mm Hg) in these arteries leads to pulmonary hypertension. Increased pressure leads to the narrowing of the vessels. As a result, the oxygen supply to the blood decreases. It is a progressive disease, i.e., it worsens with age and time.
What Causes Pulmonary Hypertension?
There are several factors that lead to this condition. The prominent ones are:
- Gene mutation: A mutation in the gene BMPR2 and ALK-1 leads to pulmonary hypertension.
- Congenital heart disease: The subpulmonary ventricle is absent leading to a lack of reduced cardiac blood supply.
- Indulgence in drugs like methamphetamines: Drugs lead to vasoconstriction causing pulmonary hypertension.
- Pulmonary fibrosis: Pulmonary fibrosis compresses pulmonary arteries and capillaries leading to a rise in blood pressure.
- Blood clots in the lungs: Blood clots resist normal blood flow causing PH.
- Metabolic disorders: Most metabolic disorders lead to inflammation of adipose tissue which is in close proximity with the blood capillaries. This causes capillary constriction leading to PH.
How Pulmonary Hypertension Affects Patients?
Pulmonary hypertension can cause several problems. Some of them are:
- Shortness of breath
- Edema of ankles, legs, and stomach
- Frequent fainting
- Constant chest pain or feeling of pressure
- Cyanosis that is the blue coloring of lips because of low oxygen supply to the body
- Pulmonary hypertension can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. It includes taking a balanced diet and indulging in regular exercises.
- One should stay away from tobacco products and illegal drugs as they aggravate the condition.
- If the condition runs in someone’s family, one should seek medical help early to prevent it from worsening.
How to Empower Patients?
Pulmonary hypertension is a progressive disease. The patient needs to be an active participant in its management.
Patient involvement for management of this condition can be done by:
- Effective awareness: Doctors should explain the condition to the patient in simple terms. If someone has a genetic condition, they need to know that they are at increased risk. If someone smokes, he or she should know that it will accelerate the disease. Unless a patient knows what is causing the condition, how will they eliminate that factor?
- Greater involvement: Proper diet is an important part of disease management. Usually, dietitians give a standard chart to everyone. This is not suitable for every palate. Instead, the focus should be on creating a customized diet-chart for every patient. This will make them micro-manage their diet.
- Effective communication: Every information, be it diagnosis or the stage of disease should be communicated to the patient. This will build up the patient involvement. They will be able to see their health graph. They can exercise accordingly. In the absence of this information, someone with an advanced stage of pulmonary hypertension might get into heavy exercise worsening the disease.
- Regular sessions with healthcare experts will also increase their involvement.
For a chronic and progressive condition like pulmonary hypertension which affects patients of both young and old veneration, active patient involvement is a must for proper prevention.