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What is cor pulmonale?

I had been having shortness of breath whenever I exercise. On top of that, I would feel light-headed, and my heart would beat so fast that I was terrified that I would have a heart attack or it would burst in my chest or something horrible. Now, I have trouble catching my breath even when I rest. Sometimes I wheeze and cough. Now and then I feel chest pains or a weird discomfort in my chest like something is seizing up when I try to catch a breath. On top of this, my ankles sometimes swell for no reason. When I finally went to my doctor, he diagnosed cor pulmonale. What is that?
This is an important question to discuss with your doctor. Cor pulmonale is a condition of the heart that is caused by lung disease. Let me explain: the heart has two sides to it; the left side and the right side. The left side is the largest, and pumps blood to the body. The right side is smaller and pumps blood only to the lungs. Since the right side is smaller, it must pump at lower pressures than the left side. Sometimes when people have lung disease such as emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, or some other significant lung disease, the pressure with the blood vessels of the lung rises and causes the right side of the heart to struggle. When the right side of the heart starts to struggle and show signs of failure, we call that cor pulmonale (right heart failure secondary to lung disease). In order for your doctor to have diagnosed this, he or she would have first had to diagnose you with a lung disease as the primary cause of your shortness of breath. Then, you would have had to have a catheterization and/or an echocardiogram to determine if the right heart is failing. If you haven't had any of this done, I would suggest that you seek the opinion of a cardiologist who knows how to diagnose this kind of condition. You will need this testing to rule in or rule out this condition. Please speak with your doctor.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.

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