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Misdiagnosis All Too Common for People Living with Pulmonary Hypertension

Equal Opportunity Disease Doesn’t Discriminate

Silver Spring, Md. (Oct. 21, 2010) — Twenty-five years ago pulmonary hypertension (PH) patients had a 50-percent chance of surviving 2.8 years past diagnosis, but with new treatment options and the care of a PH specialist, more patients are living longer. This November, during Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month, they are working to ensure that the prognosis for this invisible, incurable disease continues to improve.

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is caused by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs that can lead to heart failure. Research shows that lack of awareness plays a major role in delaying correct diagnosis, which takes an average of over a year.

PH is often misdiagnosed as asthma, congestive heart disease, or chronic bronchitis. The symptoms, which can include dizziness, loss of energy, depression and dry cough, mimic other conditions leading to a longer path to eventual diagnosis. Although anyone can get PH, there are risk factors such as family history and living at a high altitude, which make some people more susceptible.

“If more people knew about the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension and doctors were more familiar with the warning signs, more people would get treatment sooner and fewer would die,” says Rino Aldrighetti, president and CEO of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA). “Most people have never heard of pulmonary hypertension, so they are unlikely to take the necessary steps to get diagnosed and ultimately treated.”

Pulmonary hypertension is a life-challenging illness, but with certain lifestyle changes many patients continue to lead active and fulfilling lives. PH affects people of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds including Elise Firestone, college student and award winning bodybuilder; Kimberlee Ford who was recently diagnosed with PH that could have been caught earlier if she was not misdiagnosed with asthma; and military chaplain and licensed clinical social worker George Harris, who in addition to his own PH also lost his brother to the disease, and now counsels others who have lost someone to PH.

To commemorate PH Awareness Month, volunteers will hold events across the country to draw attention to the risks of pulmonary hypertension.


NOTES TO EDITORS: Elise Firestone, Kimberlee Ford and George Harris are available to talk about PH and Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month, November 2010.

PHA is on Facebook, Twitter (#PHAwarenessMonth) and YouTube.

About The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA)

Headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., PHA is the country’s leading organization connecting pulmonary hypertension patients, families, and medical professionals. Its mission is to find ways to prevent and cure pulmonary hypertension and provide hope for the community through support, education, advocacy and awareness. PHA provides free access to information on its Web site about pulmonary hypertension and facilitates over 200 support groups around the nation, helping many of the estimated 30,000 diagnosed patients in the U.S. To learn more, visit:


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The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) awarded PHA the Abbey S. Meyers Leadership Award in 2012 for outstanding service to PHA members in advocacy, education and other key areas.