The Social Security Administration maintains a listing of impairments, which are disorders eligible to receive benefits. These disorders range from skin conditions to immune system dysfunction. Respiratory disorders like pulmonary hypertension also feature in the list.
This condition occurs when vessels in the lungs become narrow, which restricts blood flow through the lungs. Along with damaging the lungs, pulmonary hypertension also affects the heart, as it must pump harder to overcome narrowed vessels.
Causes and symptoms
There is a wide range of causes that can lead to pulmonary hypertension. It can result from lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pulmonary fibrosis, which is when scar tissue develops between small air sacs. Blood clotting disorders are another contributing cause, as is kidney disease, certain forms of cancer, and illicit drug use.
As for symptoms, the onset usually occurs slowly over the course of years. Symptoms tend to increase as the condition advances and can include things like chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Lower extremity swelling and fainting can also occur, and many people develop rapid heartbeats or palpitations.
Diagnosis and treatment
Doctors will use a variety of diagnostic tests to establish a diagnosis. Echocardiograms show how the heart is functioning, as well as provide an image of the physical structures. Medical providers can also perform ECG testing to evaluate the heart’s electrical impulses.
If tests return a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension, your doctor can prescribe medication to open narrowed blood vessels for improved flow. They can also perform surgery to relieve pressure on the heart. This is usually the next step if medication does not have the intended effect.