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Published on October 16, 2015

Feeling breathless?

What you should know about pulmonary hypertension

BPYou climb a flight of stairs, and you can’t … quite … catch your breath.

Most of us know the feeling. “But if routine activities frequently leave you winded, tell your doctor right away,” urges Martin O’Riordan, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. Troubled breathing is never normal. And it might be a sign of pulmonary hypertension (PH), a very serious disease.

Live a longer, healthier life

Not long ago, PH was often a deadly condition. “But now it can be controlled,” Dr. O’Riordan says. “There is still no cure, but new treatments are helping people live longer, healthier lives.”

And the sooner treatment starts, the easier it is to manage the disease. That’s why Mercy Fitzgerald has launched a new program to help quickly diagnose it.

Anyone with unexplained shortness of breath can now be evaluated for PH here with a simple test.

What is pulmonary hypertension?

PH is a type of high blood pressure. It occurs in the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your lungs. Over time, it can strain the heart and cause shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue. And it can be caused by many different things—from heart valve problems to blood clots in the lung.

What’s more, it’s often tricky to diagnose. That’s because its symptoms can mimic those of other heart and lung problems.

The diagnostic test offered at Mercy Fitzgerald and Mercy Philadelphia Hospital is an echocardiogram. In addition, a cardiopulmonary bicycle test can help determine the causes of shortness of breath. “It helps make diagnoses easier by showing how both the heart and lungs handle exercise,” says Colleen Sheridan, a respiratory therapist who conducts it. And it’s simple to perform: Patients work out on a stationary bike as part of the test.

“It’s a safe and effective way to find out why someone isn’t breathing well,” Colleen says.

Short of breath?

Our team can help you know what you can do to breathe easier. For an appointment, call 484.494.4752.

Breathing: By the Numbers

15 to 20: How often a person at rest breathes each minute.

20,000+: The number of times we breathe in a day.

7 million+: How many breaths we take in a year.

Source: American Lung Association

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