CTEPH Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors | American Lung Association

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CTEPH Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

What Are the Symptoms of CTEPH?

The first symptom of CTEPH is typically shortness of breath with exertion. Fatigue, a decline in exercise capabilities, palpitations, and chest heaviness with exertion can also occur. This can progress to light-headedness and even passing out with exercise. Some patients have swelling of their legs. Rarely, coughing up blood can occur.

Symptoms can start very mild and progress with time, and are similar to other diseases. This makes CTEPH difficult to diagnose, especially in its early stages.

What Causes CTEPH? What are the Risk Factors?

CTEPH is caused by chronic blood clots in the lungs that become scar-like tissue blocking or narrowing the pulmonary vessels. About 75 percent of patients with CTEPH have a history of a prior blood clot in their lungs called a pulmonary embolism. Recurring blood clots may increase the risk of developing CTEPH. Some medical conditions such blood disorders, inflammatory diseases or a history of cancer can also increase the risk of developing CTEPH.

When to See Your Doctor

If you have had a blood clot or pulmonary embolism and are still experiencing symptoms after three months of treatment, you should discuss the possibility that chronic blood clots are causing your shortness of breath. In fact, any shortness of breath that is otherwise not well explained should explored with your doctor.


    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.


    Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed December 13, 2016.

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