Heart Disease Common Pulmonary

The heart and the lungs are very closely connected, and the health of one system can directly affect the health and function of the other. Pulmonary heart disease is a term that describes any disorder or lack of synchronicity between the heart and the lungs.

How the Lungs and Heart Work Together

When oxygen-poor blood enters the heart, it moves through the two chambers on the right side and then flows through the pulmonary artery to the lungs. There, the blood absorbs a fresh supply of oxygen through the network of tiny capillaries in the lung tissue. The oxygenated blood then returns to the heart via the pulmonary veins and enters the two left chambers. These chambers pump the blood out to circulate through the body.

In a diseased or damaged pulmonary system, the blood can accumulate around the lungs or stall on its way back to the heart. Sometimes the blood flow between the heart and lungs becomes blocked in the pulmonary arteries or veins, or the heart becomes too weak to properly pump the blood all the way to the lungs.

Acute or chronic pulmonary disease can lead to heart disease symptoms, and sometimes heart failure occurs as a result of poor lung function.

Pulmonary Hypertension

When the blood supply between the heart and lungs is slowed or blocked, pressure can build up in the pulmonary arteries–a condition called pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension is a common form of pulmonary heart disease with several possible causes, including underlying diseases or birth defects. Because the heart must work harder to circulate the blood, pulmonary hypertension may cause heart disease symptoms like dizziness or shortness of breath.

Pulmonary hypertension treatments may involve diuretics, anticoagulants, or medication to strengthen the heart’s pumping ability or resolve the underlying disorder or infection. Sometimes pulmonary hypertension results from chronic pulmonary disease, and in severe or untreatable cases, a transplant may be required.

Pulmonary Edema

If the heart weakens and cannot manage to pump the full blood supply returning from the lungs, a backlog of blood may accumulate in the lungs. This is called pulmonary edema. Like other forms of heart disease, symptoms of pulmonary edema can include dizziness and weakness, swelling of the legs or abdomen, fainting, or chest pain.

A doctor may diagnose pulmonary edema with an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram or chest X-ray. Once the excess fluid has been identified, the treatment often involves diuretics or other medications to reduce body fluids.

Chronic Pulmonary Disease and Pulmonary Embolism

A few other common causes of pulmonary heart disease include pulmonary embolism and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Pulmonary embolism takes place when the arteries of the lungs become blocked by blood clots. Symptoms may be similar to heart disease symptoms with the addition of blood appearing when a patient coughs. Treatments include surgical procedures or medications like anticoagulants to remove the clots.

COPD often manifests as chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Like many other forms of pulmonary heart disease, the complications of COPD can force the heart to work harder to supply the body with oxygen, which may weaken the heart and its pumping ability. Management of COPD usually involves smoking cessation and medications to improve lung function. Surgery may be an option in severe cases.

Resources

American Heart Association. (2010). Pulmonary hypertension. Retrieved October 28, 2010, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/TheImpactofCongenitalHeartDefects/Pulmonary-Hypertension_UCM_307044_Article.jsp

Pulmonary Heart Disease. (2009). Pulmonary heart disease. Retrieved October 27, 2010, from http://www.pulmonaryheartdisease.net/

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). COPD basics. Retrieved October 28, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/copd/DS00916

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Pulmonary embolism basics. Retrieved October 27, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pulmonary-embolism/DS00429

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Pulmonary hypertension basics. Retrieved October 28, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pulmonary-hypertension/DS00430