What’s Pulmonary Hypertension (PH)?

Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the lungs and affects the right side of the heart. This differs from regular high blood pressure in the arteries throughout the body. PH causes your heart to work harder to pump blood, weakening your heart muscle and can lead to heart failure.

  • PH Types

    There are five types of PH, and each has a different cause:

    1. Pulmonary arterial hypertension from narrow, blocked or stiff lung arteries
    2. Pulmonary hypertension due to left-side heart disease and problems with how the heart squeezes or relaxes
    3. Pulmonary hypertension from lung disease or low oxygen levels (hypoxia)
    4. Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) from blockages (from blood clots or scars) in the lungs
    5. Pulmonary hypertension due to unknown causes or multiple diseases

    Knowing the type of PH helps your doctor tailor treatment decisions to address the underlying causes.

  • Symptoms

    Your symptoms may vary depending on the cause of PH. The most common PH symptoms are also associated with many other conditions, including:

    • Fatigue
    • Lightheadedness
    • Shortness of breath
    • Swelling in legs
    • Tightness in the chest

    The earlier you see a doctor to diagnose your condition, the better your treatment outcome and quality of life.

Choose Our Expert, Accredited Care

When you choose AnMed for care, rest assured you’ll get the best possible treatment for pulmonary arterial hypertension. We are a Pulmonary Hypertension Association-accredited Regional Clinic Program (PHA-RCP). 

Selection as an accredited program required AnMed to demonstrate expert-level care, skilled evaluations based on evidence-based guidelines and high-quality treatment. 

Pulmonologists at AnMed excel at providing specialized care, a full array of diagnostics and medical therapies to treat your condition. Other doctors send their pulmonary arterial hypertension patients to us from hours away for our expertise and treatment. We’ll get to know you well and meet your needs consistently.

Diagnosing Pulmonary Hypertension

At your first appointment, expect your doctor to review your medical and family health history and perform a physical exam. Because PH symptoms are associated with many other conditions, your doctor will order one or more pulmonary diagnostic tests to evaluate your heart and lung functions and pressure, such as:

  • Blood test
  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram
  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Right-heart catheterization (with nitric oxide testing)
  • Ventilation/perfusion scan

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Risk Assessment

Your doctor will assess your pulmonary arterial hypertension risk if you have a right-heart catheterization. This test checks how well your heart pumps and measures your heart and lung pressures. Your assessment assists your doctor in calculating a risk score. This score helps your doctor determine the best treatment approach for your risk category (low, intermediate or high) and your long-term prognosis.

Patient Navigator for PAH

When you receive a right-heart catheterization, an AnMed registered respiratory therapist (RRT) will serve as your patient navigator and get involved in your care. Count on your navigator to help you and your family:

  • Understand and cope with your diagnosis of PAH
  • Review insurance benefits
  • Explain medications and side effects

Your navigator will also attend follow-up appointments with you.

PH Treatments Personalized for Your Needs

There is no cure for PH, but your doctor will recommend an individualized treatment plan to control symptoms and prevent more lung damage. The treatment or combination of treatments you receive will depend on your PH type and the severity of your symptoms. It’s important to have a physician—like the experts at AnMed—experienced in treating PH to achieve your best outcome.

Your treatment goal will be to lower your risk by treating and managing your symptoms.

Specialized Treatments Offered at AnMed

Treatments at AnMed can help relieve symptoms, improve your quality of life and even slow down PAH progression. Your treatments may include:

  • Blood thinner (anticoagulant) to prevent blood clots in the lungs if you have CTEPH
  • Diuretics (water pills) to help the kidneys remove extra fluid from the body
  • Oxygen therapy, if oxygen in your blood is too low, to allow the lungs to work better
  • Vasodilator drugs that relax the blood vessels in the lungs, reduce blood pressure in the lungs and improve blood flow:
    • Calcium channel blockers 
    • Endothelin receptor antagonists
    • PDE 5 inhibitors
    • Prostacyclin analogs
    • Soluble guanylate cyclase stimulators

Living with Pulmonary Hypertension

Manage life better when you have PH. Rely on guidance and support from your AnMed pulmonary care team. You may need to change your daily routine and activities to feel your best.

Lifestyle Changes

You’ll need to put extra effort into lifestyle changes because they greatly affect how you feel. Your team may recommend:

  • Following a diet and nutrition plan like a heart-healthy diet that includes eating less salt to control your body fluids
  • Getting seasonal vaccines to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Taking travel precautions to protect your breathing
  • Quitting smoking if you smoke
  • Staying active with an exercise program such as pulmonary rehabilitation without overexerting yourself

Coping with PH

Living with PH can sometimes be challenging. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family or a caregiver at home. Ask your AnMed care team to help with new or better ways to manage your PH. We can put you in touch with at-home (outpatient) palliative care and nutrition services available at AnMed. 

View more support, advice and tips for coping with PH on the Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s website.

Support groups

Attending the AnMed PH support group provides vital education about the disease process and how to self-manage PH. AnMed has two active PH support groups, one in Anderson and one in Greenville. Ask your care team about how to get involved.

Follow the Anderson Pulmonary Hypertension Support Group on Facebook to keep up to date on meetings.

PHA Registry

As a PHA-accredited center, AnMed participates in the PHA Registry. During appointments, we explain the importance of the registry and ask our patients to enroll. This patient registry is a database that collects and evaluates patient data to study patterns that could lead to new treatments and better care and outcomes for you.

Partnerships for Higher Levels of Care

Expect a referral to our partners for the most comprehensive PH care. If you have CTEPH, you’ll get a referral to Duke University Medical Center for evaluation.

You’ll also get a referral to Duke or the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) for a second opinion and an evaluation for a lung transplant.

Research & Clinical Trials

Ask your care team at AnMed how to get involved with a PH research study or clinical trial. We'll refer you if you may benefit from studies or medication trials elsewhere. This provides you access to promising new treatments before they’re widely available. 

Talk to Your Doctor

Ask your doctor for a referral to a pulmonologist at AnMed for expert pulmonary hypertension care.