Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, also known as PAH, is a condition characterized by an increased blood pressure in the lung vasculature, which is composed of the pulmonary artery, vein, and capillaries. Similar to SARS, patients with PAH may experience shortness of breath. Other common symptoms are dizziness, fainting, fatigue, non-productive cough, angina pectoris, syncope, peripheral edema, and rarely hemoptysis. These symptoms do not appear all at once, but develop over time, which is why many patients put off seeing a doctor, and thus fail to get a diagnosis. Additionally, there are four other types of major pulmonary hypertension (venous, hypoxic, thromboembolic, and miscellaneous), making a series of tests necessary to establish the exact type.
PAH is an uncommon disease, and sometimes it is difficult to determine what exactly is causing it. Known causes include heart disease, liver disease, HIV, and scleroderma, (a tissue and skin condition). People with a family history of pulmonary hypertension are also at risk. However, in order to make sure that someone has PAH, a doctor will run several tests, such as right heart catheterization, echocardiogram, blood tests, chest x-ray, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and pulmonary function tests.
Treatments for PAH include anticoagulants, heart medication (digoxin), diuretics and oxygen therapy amount others. Changes in lifestyle can also give PAH patients a better quality of life. Examples of these changes are making laundry areas more accessible, rearranging kitchenware for easy access, modifying showers and baths, managing kids’ daily needs, arranging for regular and emergency child care, securing handicapped parking, managing family outings and home activities, finding resources to ease daily and weekly house chores, and limiting use of stairs.