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We should all pay attention to our health and act quickly in aftermath of World Pulmonary Hypertension Day

Medical science has not yet identified the precise causes of PH, but it may be an outgrowth of other illnesses like lung and heart problems. Picture: Pexels

Medical science has not yet identified the precise causes of PH, but it may be an outgrowth of other illnesses like lung and heart problems. Picture: Pexels

Published May 17, 2023


The goal of World Pulmonary Hypertension Day is to increase public awareness of pulmonary hypertension (PH), a serious disorder that severely affects the heart and lungs.

Everyday Health claims that this uncommon lung condition is essentially excessive blood pressure in the arteries that provide blood to your lungs from both your heart and other organs.

It differs from systemic or common hypertension, which impacts your body's arteries in areas other than your heart and lungs.

Your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your lungs as a result of pulmonary hypertension.

The right side of your heart may gradually grow and become unable to efficiently pump blood as a result causing a range of bothersome symptoms. Pulmonary hypertension can harm your heart, which might result in significant, sometimes fatal problems.

On May 5, people all over the world take part in World PH Day to lobby for access to PH diagnosis, treatment, and care, increase awareness of this frequently misunderstood condition, and celebrate the lives of those who live with PH.

The first World PH Day commemoration took place in 2012 in Madrid, Spain, with a programme and a scientific symposium. According to the National Institutes of Health, 22 patient associations, 10 organisations for rare and related diseases, and 8 scientific societies formally supported the day.

The date of May 5 was originally selected as World Pulmonary Hypertension Day because it marks the anniversary of the death of the first child in Spain from pulmonary hypertension brought on by contaminated rapeseed oil more than 30 years ago.

During World PH Day, organisations dedicated to pulmonary hypertension work to raise awareness and understanding of the condition in order to encourage early diagnosis, which is crucial for reducing premature PH-related deaths; to promote access to healthcare and treatments that improve quality of life and extend life; to promote the idea of holistic care, which involves treating PH patients as a whole, including their physical, psychological, and social aspects; and to raise funds for these initiatives.

Pneumonia is divided into five types, one of which being pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Heart failure and early death are potential consequences of PAH, a deadly condition that progresses and has no known cure.

The symptoms are explained in plain language by Moustafa Kamel, the Medical Affairs Director of Janssen South Africa: ‘’The patient will experience shortness of breath when they engage in even the most basic activities that most of us would take for granted, such as walking for ten or twelve metres. People need to be aware of these issues since PAH is a serious, chronic condition that, left untreated, can result in heart failure.

Medical science has not yet identified the precise causes of PH, but it may be an outgrowth of other illnesses like lung and heart problems.

Although it can affect anyone, regardless of age, genetics can play a part. Family histories of Down syndrome, congenital heart disease, Gaucher disease, or blood clotting increase one's risk. However, the likelihood that a youngster may experience it normally rises with age.

Other medical problems can be linked to PAH, most notably congenital cardiac diseases (CTD) and connective tissue illnesses. The majority of PAH patients in registries had idiopathic, hereditary, or drug-induced PAH. Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is the predominant cause of CTD in the subgroup of associated PAH disorders (APAH).

Since its symptoms frequently overlap with those of other disorders, pulmonary hypertension can be challenging to diagnose and cannot be found in a simple physical examination. Based on an examination of your body and your symptoms, your doctor will decide whether to order any diagnostic tests.

According to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, the following tests can be used to diagnose pulmonary hypertension:

Right heart catheterisation (cardiac catheterisation)

In order to do this invasive test, your doctor will need to thread a small tube into your pulmonary artery in your neck or groin and measure your blood pressure there.


In this examination, sound waves are used to produce animated images of your heart. The first diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension can be made using it, as well as an estimation of your pulmonary blood pressure.

A chest X-ray

This test may reveal heart or pulmonary artery enlargement, which are indicators of possible pulmonary hypertension.

A blood test

These tests can be used to identify some pulmonary hypertension-related factors, such as an elevated risk of blood clots.


This examination can detect irregular heartbeats that could be brought on by pulmonary hypertension. To evaluate your lung health or identify the reasons of pulmonary hypertension, more tests could be required.

The prevalence of pulmonary hypertension appears to be rising globally. According to Healthline's analysis, the annual prevalence of the illness increased from 99.8 to 127.3 per 100,000 persons between 1993 and 2012. Group 2 (induced by left-sided heart disease), which accounts for 34.2% of cases, is the most prevalent kind of pulmonary hypertension. Group 3 (caused by lung disease), which also satisfies the criteria for group 2, accounts for another 29.3% of cases.

Additionally, according to statistics, it affects more women, black individuals, and those over 75. Although those who lead absolutely healthy lifestyles can develop this condition, bad lifestyle choices, including smoking and reckless drug use, can also be a contributing cause.

Kamel emphasises that PAH is progressive in nature, meaning that its burden rises over time, just like so many other disorders. He warns that if it isn't treated, it can progress to the point where the patient needs a lung transplant. Therefore, early diagnosis is essential. This will enable medical interventions, of which South Africa fortunately has a wide range of possibilities.

According to Kamel, the availability of effective medications and therapeutic procedures enables patients to live healthier lives. Patients may discover that they progress from being unable to walk more than 10 meters to being able to stroll leisurely for 30 minutes.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.