Pulmonary Hypertension: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the arteries of your lungs. These blood vessels carry blood from the heart to the lungs, where the blood picks up oxygen. The walls of the arteries may get thick, and the arteries may get narrow. When this happens, blood does not flow as well as it should. Pressure builds up in the arteries. Then your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your lungs.

There are different types of pulmonary hypertension. They are caused by different things. Causes include other health conditions such as heart or lung problems. Sometimes it can happen without a known cause.

When you have this condition, your body gets less oxygen from your blood. This causes symptoms such as shortness of breath and feeling tired, faint, or dizzy. Over time, these symptoms may change or get worse if your heart gets weaker. You may get heart failure. Heart failure means your heart doesn't pump as much blood as your body needs.

Treatment can help you feel better and live longer. Your treatment options will depend on the type of pulmonary hypertension you have.

It can be hard to learn that you have a problem with your lungs and heart. But there are things you can do to feel better and stay as active as you can.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Medicine

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Your doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy. You will get more details on how to use it.
  • Talk to your doctor before you take any vitamins, over-the-counter medicine, or herbal products. Don't take ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) without talking to your doctor first.
  • If you take a blood thinner, be sure to get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.

Activity

  • Be as active as you can. Talk to your doctor about making a plan before you start a new activity.
  • Ask your doctor if a pulmonary rehabilitation program is right for you.
  • Learn how to save your energy. Making small changes in daily activities can make a big impact on how you feel.

Staying healthy

  • Eat healthy foods, and try to stay at a healthy weight.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make this condition worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Talk to your doctor about preventing pregnancy. You may need to take steps to avoid becoming pregnant. Pregnancy and childbirth can cause changes in the body that could be life-threatening for women who have this condition.
  • Avoid colds and flu. Get a pneumococcal vaccine shot. If you have had one before, ask your doctor if you need another dose. Get a flu vaccine every year. If you must be around people with colds or flu, wash your hands often.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of sudden heart failure. These may include:
    • Severe trouble breathing.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    • Coughing up pink, foamy mucus.
    • Passing out.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or changed symptoms of heart failure, such as:
    • New or increased shortness of breath.
    • New or worse swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
    • Sudden weight gain, such as 1.3 kilograms (3 pounds) or more in 2 to 3 days. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
    • Feeling dizzy or light-headed or like you may faint.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
    • Not sleeping well. Shortness of breath wakes you at night. You need extra pillows to prop yourself up to breathe easier.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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