Pulmonary Vascular Diseases

Pulmonary vascular disease is a term for a disease affecting the blood vessels leading to or from the lungs.  It refers to a category of disorders.  Below is some basic information about the major types of pulmonary vascular disease.

Pulmonary embolism is when the blood flow through the lung’s artery is suddenly blocked by a blood clot that traveled from the leg, pelvis, or other deep vein.  Symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest pain, fainting, and a rapid heart rate.  A pulmonary embolism can damage the heart or cause death.  It can be prevented by drugs that break up blood clots, proper exercise and physical activity, compression socks, and pneumatic compression.

Chronic thromboembolic disease is a condition where old blood clots remain in the lung’s arteries instead of being absorbed by the body. It can cause the person’s blood pressure to get dangerously high, causing stress on the heart and other complications including pulmonary arterial hypertension.  It often progresses gradually, causing small blood vessels in the lungs to become diseased until a large part of the pulmonary arterial system is affected.

Pulmonary veno-occlusive disease is a rare form of high blood pressure in the lung.  It can be caused by a viral infection or as a complication of lupus, leukemia, lymphoma, chemotherapy, or bone marrow transplantation.  However, in most cases, the cause is unknown.  Symptoms include difficulty breathing, fatigue, fainting, and coughing up blood.  Pulmonary veno-occlusive disease can cause narrowed pulmonary veins, pulmonary hypertension, congestion, and swelling of the lungs.  There is no known cure, but medicine can be used to treat the disease.

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMS) are tangles in the circulatory system that are usually present from birth.  The cause of these malformations is unknown.  Because the circulatory system carries blood between the heart and the rest of the blood, these tangles can interfere with the blood circulation in an organ.  They generally occur in the head but can also be present in internal organs, the limbs, and the torso.  The greatest danger of an AVM is hemorrhage, internal bleeding caused by a broken blood vessel.  Treatment can include surgery or irradiation therapy.

Pulmonary edema occurs when fluid builds up in the air sacs of the lungs.  It is often caused by heart failure.  When the heart fails, the blood pressure increases in the veins going through the lungs, causing fluid to be pushed into the lungs and resulting in a shortness of breath.  Pulmonary edema can be caused by exercise at very high altitudes, damage to the lung by poisonous gas or sever infection, as a side effect of medication, or from major trauma.  It can also be a complication of heart disease.

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