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Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. It makes the right side of the heart work harder than normal.

Pulmonary hypertension may be caused by:

  • Autoimmune diseases that damage the lungs, such as scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Birth defects of the heart
  • Blood clots in the lung
  • Heart failure
  • Heart valve disease
  • HIV infection
  • Chronic low oxygen levels in the blood for a long time
  • Lung disease, such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis or any other severe chronic lung condition
  • Medicines
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Signs & Symptoms

Shortness of breath or lightheadedness during activity is often the first symptom of pulmonary hypertension. Heart palpitations may also be present.

Other symptoms include:

  • Ankle and leg swelling
  • Bluish color of the lips or skin
  • Chest pain or pressure, usually in the front of the chest
  • Dizziness or fainting spells
  • Fatigue
  • Increased abdomen size
  • Weakness


In order to diagnose pulmonary hypertension, a Deborah Heart and Lung Center physician may order the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan of the chest
  • Echocardiogram
  • ECG
  • Lung function tests
  • Nuclear lung scan
  • Pulmonary arteriogram
  • 6-minute walk test
  • Sleep study
  • Tests to check for autoimmune problems