Portal hypertension is an increase in the blood pressure within a system of veins called the portal venous system. Veins coming from the stomach, intestine, spleen, and pancreas merge into the portal vein.
Causes of Portal Hypertension: The most common cause of portal hypertension is cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis is scarring which accompanies the healing of liver injury caused by hepatitis, alcohol, or other less common causes of liver damage. In cirrhosis, the scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver.
Other causes of portal hypertension include blood clots in the portal vein, blockages of the veins that carry the blood from the liver to the heart, a parasitic infection called schistosomiasis, and focal nodular hyperplasia, a disease seen in people infected with HIV, the virus that may lead to AIDS. Sometimes the cause is unknown.
Symptoms of Portal Hypertension: Gastrointestinal bleeding marked by black, tarry stools or blood in the stools, or vomiting of blood due to the spontaneous rupture and hemorrhage from varices Ascites (an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen).
Encephalopathy or confusion and forgetfulness caused by poor liver function.
Reduced levels of platelets, blood cells that help form blood clots, or white blood cells, the cells that fight infection
Portal Hypertension Diagnosed: Usually, doctors make the diagnosis of portal hypertension based on the presence of ascites or of dilated veins or varices as seen during a physical exam of the abdomen or the anus. Various lab tests, X-ray tests, and endoscopic exams may also be used.