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Health Column: Pulmonary hypertension, a different kind of high blood pressure

Phil Mohler, M.D.
MOHLER’S MEDICATION MAXIMS
Free Press Health Columnist
blood pressure cuff being taken
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a condition that causes high blood pressure in the blood vessels that carry blood to the lungs. Although much less common than the garden variety hypertension that effects the blood vessels of the rest of the body, PH is a serious, life-threatening illness that affects all ages.

The early symptoms of PH are often non-specific, making it difficult to diagnose. Fatigue and shortness of breath with activity are early symptoms. Over time, PH patients may develop chest pain, leg swelling, fainting and loss of appetite.

The diagnosis of PH is often not straight forward. An echocardiogram, a test that uses sound waves to create a picture of the heart, is frequently the first test. A more invasive test, pulmonary artery catheterization, involves inserting a thin flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in the neck or groin that is threaded into the heart to measure the pressures in the blood vessels that go to the lungs.



Sometimes PH comes out of the blue, without a definable cause. At other times a search may reveal PH has been caused by a medication (remember the fen of Fen-Phen diet pills?), chronic lung disease like COPD, or recurrent clots to the blood vessels of the lungs.

Although PH is not a curable disease, the good news is that in the last year the FDA has approved two new drugs for this illness. Western Colorado is also fortunate to have a lively new support group for PH, called LiPHe. Co-founders Kristine Green and Anna Bower (both PH patients) invite you to their group and specifically to the PHenomenal Mile, a walk, run, skip, ride, roll event at Sherwood Park (Forest Shelter) at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 12.



Contact Kristine at greenkristine@hotmail.com or Anna at bower.anna@gmail.com. The national PH Association website is http://www.phassociation.org.

GJ Free Press health columnist Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 39 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans. Email him at pjmohler@bresnan.net.


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