Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial for rare yet deadly disease
VANCOUVER, Nov. 18, 2009/CNW - We often hear about the perils of high blood pressure, but many Canadians are unaware that high blood pressure in the lungs – known as pulmonary hypertension (PH) – can also have fatal consequences. This month, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada hopes to raise awareness about PH – a rare but serious disease that can strike at any time and has no regard for race, age or gender.
“PH is often not recognized until it is quite advanced, and as a result, many people may have the disease without knowing it,” says Darren Bell, President, Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada. “Sadly, this means it is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage when survival rates are poor. We want to make sure Canadians learn more about the disease, as early diagnosis and treatment is crucial in delaying progression.”
It is estimated that between 2,000 and 5,000 Canadians have been diagnosed with PH, but as many as 10,000 may be affected by the condition(1) – the exact number is unknown because few clinical trials have been done and many people are not diagnosed at the earlier stages of the disease. Early symptoms are subtle and include unexplained shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the feet and ankles, and fainting. Patients with certain types of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) – the most severe form of PH – only live an average of two to three years if left untreated.(2)
“PH is a complicated disease in which the arteries of the lungs become narrowed and may even close, because of scarring, resulting in high blood pressure in the lungs,” said Dr. Sanjay Mehta, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Southwest Ontario PH Clinic in London, Ontario, and Medical Director, PHA-Canada. “As PH progresses, a patient’s heart becomes enlarged and weaker, which often leads to a high risk of death.”
A COMMUNITY UNITED IN THE FACE OF PH
PH is a chronic condition for which there is no cure. However, the good news is that there are several effective treatments available, and Canadians living with PH have more options than ever before. Ongoing research is rapidly advancing our understanding of the causes of PH, and since 1997, several treatments have been approved in Canada.(3) Thanks to these advancements, many patients with PH are living longer and healthier lives.
Kathy Ilano knows firsthand the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. “I had never even heard of PH. All I knew was that I couldn’t breathe,” mentions Kathy. “It took a long time to accurately diagnose me, but I’m glad I was persistent and my doctor found out when he did, or I wouldn’t be alive today. If you think you or a loved one may have PH, be proactive and find out all the information you can so you get properly diagnosed by a specialist.”
The Pulmonary Hypertension Association of Canada provides support and information for patients and caregivers who are living with this rare disease, and is striving to create an ever-growing network of support groups and Chapters that will enable patients and family members to connect, learn from and find common understanding with others.
Canadians who are concerned about PH should be proactive about making the right choices and work closely with family, friends and healthcare providers for support as well as the most appropriate treatment option. For more information, visit PHACanada.ca.