The most common symptom that virtually everyone who develops pulmonary hypertension has is shortness of breath when they are active. Other symptoms include:
- Tiring easily
- Chest pain like angina
If there is coughing and wheezing, it's usually caused by an underlying lung disease. If pulmonary hypertension has reached the stage of cor pulmonale, a person may have swelling of the legs. People with primary pulmonary hypertension are prone to developing achy joints, sometimes years before they are diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension.
Some rheumatic disorders, such as scleroderma, may be associated with pulmonary hypertension. When a person has both scleroderma and hypertension, they may develop symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon before the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension become noticed.
There are two kinds of pulmonary hypertension, primary pulmonary hypertension and secondary pulmonary hypertension.
Primary pulmonary hypertension is more rare and has no known cause. It most likely begins when the muscles the line the walls of the pulmonary arteries go into spasms (contractions). Women are twice as likely as men to have this kind of pulmonary hypertension. Half the people who are diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension are 35 or older when the diagnosis is made.
Secondary pulmonary hypertension occurs as a result of another disorder that affects how the lungs are structured or work. This can be any condition or disease that interferes with the flow of blood through the lungs or causes periods in which the blood does not receive enough oxygen. Some examples include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis or occupational lung diseases. Other causes can include:
- Losing lung tissue from surgery
- Heart failure
- Diseases, such as scleroderma
- Obesity, which impairs the ability to breathe
- Nerve disorders that involve the muscles used to breathe
- Chronic liver diseases
- HIV infection
- Diet drugs, such as dexfenfluramine-phentermine (fen-phen)