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Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Week 2016: the importance of early diagnosis and treatment

Posted: 23/11/2016


This week, from 19 to 27 November 2016, marks the UK’s first Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Week. The aim of the campaign is to promote awareness of pulmonary hypertension amongst friends, health professionals and communities and to help people share their experience of living with the condition.

Pulmonary hypertension, which is often abbreviated as ‘PH’, is a medical term for raised blood pressure within the pulmonary arteries, which are the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the lungs. Around 6,000-7,000 people in the UK have this condition, which can affect anyone of any age. However, there are many more people living with the condition who have not been diagnosed, either because they do not realise the significance of their symptoms and medical advice has not been sought, or in some cases, health professionals have failed to spot the signs and refer patients for investigation.

PH is a serious medical condition and it can cause progressive damage to the right side of the heart, making it less efficient at pumping blood around the body and getting oxygen to the muscles and organs.

There are various causes of PH; one of the most common is when there are problems with the left side of the heart, which stops blood flowing easily to the lungs. The right side of the heart has to work harder, increasing the blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries. This is known as pulmonary hypertension associated with left heart disease.

Another type of PH is pulmonary arterial hypertension which is caused when the walls of the pulmonary arteries are thick and stiff, making it difficult for them to expand to allow more blood through, increasing blood pressure.

PH is a serious, progressive, condition and it is vital that patients visit their GPs if they experience the symptoms of PH, which are:

  • shortness of breath with everyday activities
  • fatigue
  • dizziness and fainting spells
  • chest pain, especially after exercise
  • abdomen, leg and ankle swelling
  • a racing or irregular heartbeat

If it is left untreated, PH can cause heart failure, which can be fatal. In addition, as PH progresses, carrying out everyday activities may also become more difficult. A patient’s prognosis will depend on how quickly a diagnosis is made and how advanced the symptoms are.

The charity, Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK (PHA UK), which is supporting the week, provides information about PH on its website. It also includes patient stories about how PH affects people’s lives and the treatment for PH. For more information on how to get involved in raising awareness, visit www.phauk.org.

Emma McCheyne, a senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, comments: “Penningtons Manches supports the first PH awareness week, which presents a great opportunity to raise people’s understanding of this condition. We believe campaigns such as PH awareness week are hugely important as they raise wider awareness of medical conditions and the symptoms to look out for. PH affects people of all ages and many people could be living with the condition without being diagnosed. Considering that PH can have a huge impact on a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities and can lead to heart failure, it is important to encourage anyone who experiences symptoms to seek medical advice so that they can obtain the treatment they need.”


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