A TEACHING assistant with a rare lung disease is backing a national awareness week to help more people understand her condition.

Catherine Makin, 36, lives in Whalley and was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH) five years ago.

The life-shortening disease, which affects just 7,000 people in the UK, causes high pressure in the blood vessels connecting the heart and lungs.

Symptoms include severe breathlessness, fatigue, blackouts and swelling around the ankles, arms and stomach. There is no cure.

PH Awareness Week began yesterday and runs until Sunday and has been organised by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.

Catherine, who works at Lee Royd Nursery School in Accrington, said: “I had never heard of pulmonary hypertension before I got diagnosed and it was all very scary and overwhelming.

“The condition causes me problems with physical activities like walking, because I get very breathless. I also get very tired and lethargic, and I’m not able to work more than 12 hours a week.

“My job is important to me though, because it gets me out of the house and gives me something other than my illness to talk about.”

As well as taking seven different types of tablets, Catherine must use a nebuliser to inhale medication up to six times a day and she receives treatment at a specialist centre in Sheffield.

Research by the PHA UK highlights the mental and emotional impact of living with the condition.

It shows that 53 per cent of people with PH have experienced or been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, and 43 per cent feel lonely.

Over half find socialising difficult and 70 per cent say the condition has lowered their self-confidence.

Catherine said: “Emotionally, some days I will feel fine but other days I don’t want to get out of bed. I do have off days where I’ll sit and cry because I don’t know what the outcome will be. Since being diagnosed with PH I’ve had to learn to toughen up and be positive when I think there’s something I can’t do.”

Iain Armstrong, Chair of the PHA UK, said: “Pulmonary hypertension is an extremely serious condition that has a huge impact on people’s lives. You often can’t tell someone has PH just by looking at them - so encouraging understanding of this rare, devastating condition is vital.”

PHA UK is based in Sheffield and works nationally to support people affected by pulmonary hypertension.

To find out more about pulmonary hypertension or get involved with PH Awareness Week visit phauk.org.

Search #PHWeek19 and #TogetherForPH on social media.