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Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the arteries of your lungs. It happens when the lung's tiny arteries narrow or become blocked. To keep blood flowing through these narrowed blood vessels, pressure increases in the arteries, which makes the lower right ventricle, or chamber, of your heart work harder. Eventually your heart begins to weaken and fail.

Pulmonary hypertension can happen by itself. Typically, though, it is caused by an existing disease. It is a rare condition that mostly affects women in their 30s or 40s. Scientists think the hormone estrogen may play a role in the onset of pulmonary hypertension. Treatments can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.


Sometimes there is no known cause. In that case, the condition is called idiopathic pulmonary hypertension. If another medical condition is causing the problem, it is called secondary pulmonary hypertension. Conditions that can lead to pulmonary hypertension include:

  • Heart disease
  • Mitral stenosis or regurgitation
  • Certain kinds of lung disease
  • Obesity, especially with sleep apnea
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • High altitude
  • Left side heart failure
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Low birth weight in infants


The most common symptom of pulmonary hypertension is shortness of breath, first when you exercise and later while at rest. Other symptoms include:

  • Tiring easily
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Blue lips or skin

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