Pulmonary Hypertension and COPD

Pulmonary hypertension, or PH, is a disorder that causes the blood vessels in the lungs to get narrow and stiff. It overworks the right side of the heart as it pumps blood through the lungs, eventually causing heart muscles to weaken and potentially fail. There are many types of PH, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe, and the disease affects every person differently. Although there is no cure, treatment can reduce symptoms and improve one’s quality of life. Finding a specialist who can diagnose PH and treat it properly is necessary for successful management of this condition.

How the Circulatory System Works

The lungs and heart work together to supply the body with oxygen. The heart is a big muscle made up of two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). When deoxygenated blood comes back to the heart from the rest of the body, it goes into the right side, which is then sent to the lungs. The lungs remove the carbon dioxide during an exhale and replace it with oxygen during an inhale.

The inhaled oxygen goes back into the bloodstream, ready to be delivered to the tissues. The air then travels through the lungs to supply the left side of the heart with oxygen before distributing it to the entire body. With every breath, this cycle continues. The right side of the heart only pumps air to the lungs and is, therefore, weaker than the left side.

Pulmonary Hypertension and Coronary Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

One type of PH is associated with low oxygen levels and chronic lung problems. These cases fall into a category known as coronary obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. A person who has PH related to COPD may have difficulty breathing because the lungs do not expand with inhalations, making it difficult to get oxygen into airways. When air passages are obstructed, arteries in the lungs restrict, so blood only goes to the parts that get the most oxygen and air. The tightness causes high blood pressure in the lungs.

Symptoms of PH

Symptoms and signs of PH may not be noticed in its early stages, but they become more obvious as the disease progresses. They include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
  • Blue lips and skin
  • Enlarged veins on the side of the neck

As the condition gets worse, it may also cause swelling in the abdomen.

Treating Pulmonary Hypertension

Three of the most common categories of medicine for treating PH are: vasodilators, to dilate blood vessels; calcium channel blockers, to lower blood pressure; and diuretics, to remove excess fluid and relieve pressure on the heart.

Vasodilators open blood vessels and allow blood to flow more easily. The price of vasodilators varies, depending on the specific brand and its availability as a generic. Oxygen and nitrous oxide are vasodilators, but so are Sildenafil and Tadalafil, more commonly known by the names Viagra and Cialis. Both start around $35 per pill with no discount or insurance.

Calcium channel blockers lower blood pressure by widening and relaxing blood vessels in the walls of arteries. They include older medications like Norvasc and Procardia, both of which can be purchased cheaply. Prices for other calcium channel blockers run from around $30 to $100 while prices for the most expensive ones, used to treat brain hemorrhages, can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Diuretics, sometimes called water pills, help rid the body of excess water and sodium in the body’s tissues. Older forms of diuretics start out at less than $10 but can rise to several hundred for newer ones that are not available as generics.

Other Medications and Treatments

Digoxin – Digoxin is used to treat congestive heart failure and to help the heart pump more efficiently.

Coumadin or Warfarin – Coumadin and Warfarin are blood thinners used to keep the blood from clotting.

Oral – Certain oral medications help to keep the blood vessels from narrowing.

Inhaled – Certain inhaled treatments help to relieve shortness of breath.

Intravenous – Certain intravenous treatments help to keep blood vessels open and make breathing easier.

Subcutaneous – Subcutaneous treatments are delivered through a portable pump to relieve symptoms.

Clinical studies for new treatments, along with stem cell research, are currently being done find new or more effective ways to treat the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension and other lung disorders.






History Facts - The Ice Age

  1. Twenty thousand years ago, humans and wolves hunted the same prey. As such, a partnership was the best choice for the two. Both parties benefited, with the wolves benefiting from human cleverness, and the humans taking advantage of wolf agility.
  2. Since humans have a tendency to protect abandoned cubs, and wolf cubs are easily able to acknowledge and adapt to human hierarchical rules. This is the origin story of the dog-human partnership as every single dog breed originated from these ancient wolves.
  3. Animal domestication originated from the human-wolf agreement where both species benefited from each other. Animals must have a willingness to be domesticated. Apart from wolves, other large mammals such as sheep, goats, pigs, horses, and cows were domesticated as well.
  4. A 12,000-year-old jawbone from a dog was discovered in a cave in Iraq. It is the earliest proof of canine domestication. Puppies with strong barks who had beautiful fur, or were friendly and obedient were selectively bred.
  5. Sheep were the first animals to be domesticated for food. Not long after, goats joined their ranks. This started sometime around 9,000 BC. More settled communities started domesticating pigs and cattle around 7,000 BC, ensuring a regular supply of meat.
  6. Having these animals as livestock provided many additional benefits to the Neolithic man. When they died, their leather and wool were used for making clothing. Their horn and bones were used to make sharp tools. Even their fat went to a good cause: creating candles.

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