Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the blood pressure in the lungs is too high. This leads to pressure in the heart and serious complications. At UVA, the Center of Comprehensive Care for Pulmonary Hypertension offers a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment and management of this condition.
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Pulmonary hypertension is an umbrella term for a family of diseases that all have the same presentation, which is where the blood pressures in the lungs are elevated.
As the heart pumps on the right side, it pumps that blood through the lungs where oxygen is picked up to the left side of the heart. The left side of the heart then pumps that blood to the rest of the body. And it’s that conduit, or that interplay, between the right and left side of the heart that takes place across the lungs, where disease can take place.
Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension can often times be deceptive. In fact, there’s quite a bit of lag between when patients present their symptoms and when they’re diagnosed. The reason for that is the symptoms are the same symptoms that you see in any type of heart or lung disease. Patients may present with a chest pain that is not exactly from a clear source. They can present with breathlessness, particularly when they walk, and even, particularly, when they walk upstairs, or up inclines. Some patients will present with a cough. Some patients will present with swelling in their feet. And often times patients will present just with having abnormal echocardiograms.
The treatments for pulmonary hypertension are diverse, and the reason for that is that the causes for pulmonary hypertension are diverse.
Some patients, when they come into our clinic, we make lifestyle recommendations, recommendations for the changes in their diet. In that case, sometimes, we have them meet with our nutritionist.
Some patients, we make recommendations about changing their sleep habits. In that case, often times, we’ll make referrals to our sleep doctors to help in that evaluation.
Sometimes patients require higher and more complicated therapies, and in that regards, our nurse practitioner, our nurse, our pharmacist, and often time, the combination of the cardiologist and pulmonologist in our clinic come together to devise an individualized plan for the individual needs of that patient and their disease.