When blood pressure rises in the portal vein, it is referred to as portal hypertension. Your abdomen houses the portal vein. The hepatic artery is responsible for transporting blood from the digestive organs (colon, sigmoid, stomach, pancreas and spleen) to the liver.
The liver acts as a filter, removing impurities from the circulation. Afterward, the blood returns to the heart, then back into the general circulation to be used by the body. Those with liver disease can experience a blockage of blood flow through the liver, which raises the blood pressure in the portal vein.
The elevated pressure in the portal veins caused by portal hypertension disrupts the body’s natural ability to pump blood. Blood bypasses the liver. The body produces new channels for the blood to travel through, notably to the stomach and esophagus.
These veins get swollen and twisted. As they swell up, the risk of rupture due to the extra strain increases. Treatment is needed to keep them from exploding. Internal bleeding can be lethal. Other body parts where blood vessels may develop and enlarge include the abdomen or rectum.
Common Portal Hypertension Causes
Portal hypertension usually results from cirrhosis. In cirrhosis, a kind of liver disease, scar tissue usually replaces functioning liver tissue. This scar tissue can obstruct blood flow and raise blood pressure within the portal vein.
Cirrhosis can develop as a result of the following factors:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Fatty liver disease
- Infections caused by chronic hepatitis
- Liver congestion caused by chronic heart failure
- Liver congestion caused by chronic heart failure autoimmune diseases like primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis
- Usage of specific drugs over extended periods (for example, certain antibiotics, methotrexate and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines)
Also, a blood clot can form in the portal vein and cause portal hypertension, as can cystic fibrosis, badly developed bile ducts and iron buildup in the body.
Another common cause is schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection especially prevalent in third-world nations.
Seek Medical Help Immediately if You Think You Have Portal Hypertension
This is not a complete list of portal hypertension causes. You must seek help from a gastrointestinal specialist if you notice blood in your feces or the toilet after going to the bathroom, cough up blood, experience sudden abdominal swelling or any other symptom that could be linked to this potentially fatal health condition. Dr. Dmitri Alden is highly experienced in treating portal hypertension. Please schedule an appointment with him for a diagnosis as soon as you can.