There is no known cure for pulmonary hypertension, so treatments – medications, surgery and lifestyle changes – focus on lessening the symptoms and keeping the condition from getting worse. Determining the best treatment for pulmonary hypertension may take time as methods are often complex or require change if a previous treatment becomes ineffective. If your condition is due to another underlying diagnosis, your doctor may treat the underlying cause whenever possible.
Taking Care of Pulmonary Hypertension with Medication
Medications currently available for pulmonary hypertension cannot cure the illness, but may relieve symptoms. As you use the medications, your WellStar physician will monitor you closely to see how you respond to a particular drug and to ensure the medication and dosage treats your condition effectively. Medications may include:
- Blood-thinning medicines or anticoagulants, which help prevent blood clots from forming or getting larger. Warfarin (Coumadin®) is the most common anticoagulant used for pulmonary hypertension, but it must be used exactly as prescribed because of the risk of bleeding complications.
- Blood vessel medications. Drugs such as blood vessel dilators (vasodilators), endothelin receptor antagonists, sildenafil (Revatio®), ambrisentan (Letairis®) and calcium channel blockers are designed to open narrowed blood vessels or block substances in your body that causes them to narrow.
- Diuretics or “water pills.” These medications help eliminate excess fluid from your body, thus reducing the amount of work required by your heart and lungs.
- Oxygen treatment. Breathing pure oxygen may help patients particularly those who live in high altitudes or have sleep apnea.
Taking Care of Pulmonary Hypertension with Surgery
If medications are not effective in controlling your pulmonary hypertension, surgery or transplantation of the heart, lungs or both may become options. With atrial septostomy, a WellStar surgeon creates an opening between the left and right chambers of your heart to relieve pressure on the right side and allow the blood to circulate through your body without having to pass through the lungs first. This procedure can have complications because it reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to your body or can cause heart rhythm abnormalities called arrhythmias.