How is PAH diagnosed?
PAH is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms of PAH are similar to those of other more common diseases, such as asthma, other lung diseases, and various heart diseases. Typically, your doctor will first rule out other diseases that might be causing your symptoms before diagnosing you with PAH.
To diagnose PAH, your doctor must obtain a thorough medical history, a physical exam, and results from certain tests and procedures. Unlike ordinary hypertension, PAH requires many tests to determine specifically what is happening in your heart and lungs.
The tests performed may vary. A doctor will generally use this information to diagnose PAH:
- Medical history and physical exam
- Tests for underlying conditions that may result in high blood pressure in the lungs
- 6-minute walk distance test
- Right heart catheterization
Only 1 test can confirm a PAH diagnosis: right heart catheterization.
Once PAH is suspected, a right heart catheterization (RHC) is performed to make a final diagnosis. This involves inserting a long, thin, flexible tube—called a catheter—into the neck or groin that can move through the blood vessels and into the heart. This procedure allows your doctor to test heart function and blood pressure in the heart and pulmonary (main lung) artery. It also helps evaluate the severity of your PAH.
Be proactive. It’s important to be as knowledgeable as you can about your PAH and treatments available. Many advances in PAH therapy have occurred in recent years. To get the best possible care, you may want to see a doctor who specializes in treating PAH.
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