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- Since blood vessels in the lungs are very sensitive to oxygen, lower levels of oxygen in the body or lungs may narrow the vessels. Higher pressure will be needed to push blood through the narrow blood vessels.
- Pulmonary pressure will also increase when there are abnormalities of the lungs, such as fluid or scaring, heart, or blood vessels.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the most common cause. This condition causes destruction of lung tissue. This decreases the number of blood vessels. It also lowers the amount of oxygen available.
Heart abnormalities can result in extra blood in the lungs. Some are conditions people are born with. Others may develop over time. Some of these conditions are:
- Septal defects (holes between the right and left sides of the heart, present at birth)
- Tight (stenotic) or leaky heart valves
Lung diseases that scar the lungs:
- Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis)—stiffening blood vessels, effectively preventing them from opening which raises the pressure
- Patients who have large sections of lung removed surgically
- Systemic lupus erythematous
- In obstructive sleep apnea breathing stops at times through the night. This lowers available oxygen. As a result, pulmonary blood pressure will also increase.
- Muscle weakness can make it difficult to breathe. This will lower the available oxygen. This weakness is common in neuromuscular disorders such as:
- Mountain climbers all develop the condition. It is the natural result of breathing thin air. This is one cause of high altitude sickness.
- Pulmonary embolism is a build up of blood clots in the lungs. These clots plug up the blood vessels.
- A type of chest wall deformity is known as pectus excavatum. Rarely, severe scarring of the chest wall can prevent chest expansion. It has the same effect as scarring of the lungs themselves.
- Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension is due to defects in the arteries of the lungs. There is no known cause. It is likely due to genetic factors.
- Exposure to certain substances, such as cocaine and amphetamines
- HIV infection
- Liver disease
- Asthma or other chronic lung disease
- Recurring pulmonary emboli
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Low thyroid (myxedema)
- Certain congenital and valvular heart conditions
- Muscle weakness diseases
- Home at high altitude (over 10,000 feet)
- Pectus excavatum or other severe chest deformity, such as kyphoscoliosis
- Progressive shortness of breath
- Chronic cough
- Chronic fatigue
- Fainting spells
- Ankle swelling from fluid retention
- Chest pain—angina
- Calcium channel blockers
- Phosphodiesterase inhibitors
- Endothelin receptor blockers
- Reviewer: Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
- Review Date: 09/2016
- Update Date: 09/30/2013