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Facts on Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a rare lung disorder in which the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery rises far above normal levels, usually with no apparent reason.

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Symptoms include chronic fatigue, shortness of breath (dyspnea), chest pain (angina), palpitations, fainting, swollen ankles and legs (edema), and fluid in the abdomen (ascites). These are also symptoms for other diseases such as congestive heart failure; therefore, physicians should rule out other diseases before making a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension.

Pulmonary hypertension may develop after pregnancy, valvular heart diseases, chronic thromboembolic disease, lung diseases, liver diseases, sleep–disordered breathing and hypoxemia, lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

In 2002, there were 15,668 deaths and 260,000 hospital visits among persons with pulmonary hypertension.

Among 807,000 patients hospitalized with pulmonary hypertension as one of the diagnoses between 2000 and 2002, 61% were women and 34% were younger than age 65.

It is unclear whether pulmonary hypertension is truly rare or whether pulmonary hypertension is undetected and under–reported. At present there are no statistical data to determine how many people currently have pulmonary hypertension in the United States or how many new cases are diagnosed each year.

Increases in hospitalizations for persons with pulmonary hypertension and increases in death rates for women, African–Americans, and the elderly with pulmonary hypertension during the past two decades may reflect an increase in physician awareness of the disease rather than a growing epidemic of pulmonary hypertension.

During the past decade, advances have occurred in knowledge about the evaluation and diagnosis of several different types of pulmonary hypertension and in the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension.

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