Treatment

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

Although there is no current cure for Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH), studies have shown that early treatment is important to help improve how you feel and to keep your PAH well managed for many years. As PAH is uncommon and its treatment is often complex, it should be managed by an experienced treatment centre. There is at least one centre in each state and your doctor should be able to advise you where they are.

Medicines

There are several different medicines that PAH patients can take to open up the blood vessels to the lungs and reduce the work for the heart. These are usually taken as tablets but can also be given by intravenous infusion (into the vein) or breathed in as a mist (like Ventolin). Some people may need more than one medicine.

Oxygen

Oxygen therapy may be prescribed to assist with shortness of breath and to help you stay active. Some patients only use oxygen when they feel breathless (e.g. walking or exercising) but other patients need to use oxygen continuously during the day and night.

Transplant surgery

Although most people with PAH do well with medicines, in some cases, complicated treatments like transplantation may need to be considered. This is where your heart and lungs or just your lungs are replaced from a donor.

Pulmonary or heart failure rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is an exercise and education program provided by specially trained health professionals that teaches you the skills needed to manage your breathlessness and to stay well and out of hospital. Heart failure rehabilitation may run for up to 10 weeks and then most patients are given exercises to do at home.

Watching how much salt you eat

If you have problems with fluid retention (swollen legs and belly), your medical team may talk to you about avoiding food containing lots of salt and to make sure you do not drink too much fluid each day. Some patients need to take fluid tablets to help reduce fluid swelling.

Ensuring your vaccinations are up-to-date

The may include discussing seasonal influenza vaccinations and a pneumonia vaccine with your doctor in order to help support your immune system.

Staying active and healthy

Quitting smoking, being physically active, eating well, getting plenty of rest, enjoying friends, family and hobbies, practicing relaxation techniques, joining a support group and keeping a positive attitude, are all things you can do to support managing your PAH.

Contraception

It is important to talk to your specialist about contraception. It can be very dangerous to become pregnant if you have PAH.

Accessing emotional support

Anxiety and depression is not uncommon in PAH and it is important to access support. Talk to your doctor or contact Lung Foundation for referral to an appropriate support service.

“Being compliant with medications can be time consuming and takes careful preparation, but without them I would not be able to do all the things I love. This small sacrifice is something I am willing to do to feel as good and as healthy as I can!”

Tegan, PAH patient Melbourne