what is Pulmonary Hypertension?

Common questions following diagnosis

If you, or a family member or friend has been recently diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH), it is likely you will have lots of questions. We hope you find this section helpful.

How can I explain to people, in a simple way, what PH is?

Pulmonary hypertension (often shortened to PH) is a rare and serious condition that causes high blood pressure in the blood vessels connecting the heart and lungs (the pulmonary arteries).

When a person develops PH, the walls of the pulmonary arteries become stiff and thickened, or blocked by blood clots. This makes it difficult for them to expand; and trying to pump blood through these tightened, narrowed, scarred or blocked arteries puts increasing strain on the right side of the heart as it tries to do its job. The essential task of pumping blood into the lungs to pick up oxygen which can then be circulated to every cell in the body becomes much harder.

What is next after diagnosis?

After you have been diagnosed with PH your specialist PH team will discuss treatment options with you. The treatments you receive will depend on the type of PH you have and how severe it is.

Where will I be treated?

There are nine specialist PH centres in the UK and Ireland which look after people with PH. You can choose which specialist centre you are treated at.

You normally only visit your specialist PH centre once or twice a year, although sometimes you may need to visit it every 3 or 4 months.

What is the outlook for people with PH?

The outlook for a person with PH is different for each person. This depends on a number of things:

  • How severe your PH is
  • Associated conditions
  • Overall general health
  • Your lifestyle
  • Response to treatments.

Overall, the outlook for people with PH has improved dramatically over the last 20 years. This is because of the introduction of new, effective treatments for PH.

You should talk to your PH specialist team if you would like to know more about what to expect.

What treatments are available for people with PH?

There are several different treatments available for PH. These include conventional treatments (often called supportive or background therapy) and targeted treatments.

Some treatments for PH can help improve symptoms and some may slow disease progression and reverse damage to the heart and lungs.

For more information about different treatments for PH visit the Treatments section, or talk to your specialist PH team.

Can I choose which treatment I receive?

Your specialist PH team will discuss the best treatment options with you. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask.

How will having PH affect me on a day-to-day basis?

Having PH will affect you on a day-to-day basis but that doesn’t mean it has to stop you doing the things you like.

You may feel more tired than usual or become breathless doing simple tasks such as housework or walking up stairs. You may have to take your treatments at certain times of the day, which could impact on daily activities.

There are several things you can do to make life easier. Simply taking it easy and not pushing yourself too hard may help.

Visit our day-to-day advice section for tips on making life that little bit easier.
If you need any help or advice call the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK) on 01709 761 450.

Last medically reviewed: June, 2021 • Due for review: June, 2024