Portal Hypertension: How common is it?

The portal hypertension is not a very common disorder but it can affect anyone, especially the older people. People who have diseases of the liver are the ones who usually suffer from a portal high blood pressure. If left untreated, it can impose a threat to one's health.

Portal hypertension, from the word itself, is a hypertensive state of the portal vein. Meaning to say, there is an increase of pressure in that area. The portal vein is the vein that is responsible for carrying blood from the organs of digestion, such as the stomach, pancreas, intestine, and spleen, to the liver. The normal portal pressure is between 5 to 10 mmHg. It is said to be portal high blood pressure when the pressure already exceeds 25 mmHg.

The most common cause is a damage of the liver, such as the liver cirrhosis and hepatitis. The damaged liver inflammation tends to heal itself. As a result of the healing process, scar tissues develop in the liver, which can obstruct blood flow in the portal vein. Once the blood flow has been obstructed, the blood pressure in that specific area rises. People who frequently abuse alcohol are more prone to this type of disorder. Other cause is the presence of thrombosis or a blood clot in the portal vein.


The most common presenting symptoms is ascites, which can cause rapid weight gain and an increase in the abdominal girth. The affected person often feels uncomfortable due to the enlarged abdomen and may be short of breath. Distended veins may be visible over the person's abdominal wall. Also, electrolyte and fluid imbalances are common.

When the condition has already complicated, the affected person will suffer from gastrointestinal bleeding, which can be manifested by the presence of blood in the stool, black tarry stool or even vomiting of blood. This happens when the veins rupture due to high pressure. 

Also, because of the diversion of blood flow away from the liver and poor liver function, the person may experience forgetfulness, confusion, and encephalopathy. Since the person is having an infection, blood counts may reveal a decrease in the level of white blood cells and platelets.

The physician will access the presence of ascites through the percussion of the abdomen. They will also check for the presence of dilated veins in the abdomen or behind. Laboratory tests that can assist in the diagnosis of the condition are endoscopy, x-ray of the abdominal area and complete blood count.

Most commonly used treatments for portal hypertension are:Endoscopic Therapy

- endoscopic therapy

- medications

- dietary changes

- radiology

- surgery

The first line of treatment is usually the endoscopic therapy, which is used for the variceal bleeding. Medications are beta-blockers and diuretics to help lower down the pressure in the veins. It is necessary to modify the person's nutritional habit, such as the avoidance of alcohol and sodium rich foods.

Since the major factor that can damage to the liver is the intake of alcohol, then it becomes necessary to limit alcohol consumption in order to prevent the development of portal high blood pressure.

More information on liver:

Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Liver Cholesterol

Symptoms of Liver Failure

Fatty Liver


How to Treat Liver Damage

Liver Problems


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