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High Blood Pressure (cont.)

What Are the Symptoms and Signs of High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure usually causes no symptoms and high blood pressure often is labeled "the silent killer." People who have high blood pressure typically don't know it until their blood pressure is measured.

Sometimes people with markedly elevated blood pressure may develop:

People often do not seek medical care until they have symptoms arising from the organ damage caused by chronic (ongoing, long-term) high blood pressure. The following types of organ damage are commonly seen in chronic high blood pressure:

About 1% of people with high blood pressure do not seek medical care until the high blood pressure is very severe, a condition known as malignant hypertension.

  • In malignant hypertension, the diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) often exceeds 140 mm Hg.
  • Malignant hypertension may be associated with headache, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, and stroke like symptoms
  • Malignant hypertension requires emergency intervention and lowering of blood pressure to prevent brain hemorrhage or stroke.

It is of utmost importance to realize that high blood pressure can be unrecognized for years, causing no symptoms but causing progressive damage to the heart, other organs, and blood vessels.

What Is Considered High Blood Pressure?

Many symptoms present gradually after years of poorly blood pressure control. Many times, the first knowledge of hypertension occurs when a patient complains of chest pain or has stroke-like symptoms. Should these occur, it is appropriate to call 911 immediately (if available) to activate emergency medical services and seek care.

You may be directed to seek medical care if blood pressure readings are elevated if done as part of a community health screening. Isolated elevated blood pressure readings do not necessarily make the diagnosis of hypertension. Blood pressure readings vary throughout the day, and your primary care provider may record a different reading than the one that was measured in a screening that sent you in for care.

There are non-specific symptoms associated with hypertension that may cause a person to seek care, including lightheadedness, dizziness, headache with or without nausea, change in vision, or lethargy and fatigue. There are many other reasons to develop these symptoms other than high blood pressure.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/30/2017

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