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Diagnostic Tests

Why did it take them so long to figure out what I have?

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) may go undiagnosed for months to years after the onset of symptoms. There are several reasons for this, but the most common ones are that the symptoms of this disease are very non-specific. This means that there usually isn't anything that tends to point doctors toward the diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension right away. Symptoms are typically attributed to more common disorders such as asthma, lung disease from smoking, stress, or anxiety.

Additionally, it was thought for a very long time that pulmonary arterial hypertension was so rare that most doctors would never see patients with this condition. Because much of what is known about PAH has been learned in just the last few years and because the disease is still relatively uncommon, some doctors and other medical personnel may not be very familiar with it unless they completed their training recently. Finally, the progression of this disorder can be very slow ("insidious" is the term you may hear used), so that by the time that patients come to see their physicians, their disease may be farther along than they had realized.

Fortunately, through better diagnostic testing such as echocardiography, and through the distribution of information about both the disease itself and new therapies for PAH, delays in diagnosis are decreasing.

Ask The Experts - Importance of Early Diagnosis of PAH with Dr. David Roberts and Dr. Richard Channick from Pulmonary Hypertension on Vimeo.