High Blood Pressure - Symptoms

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What are the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure?

Uncomplicated high blood pressure usually occurs without any symptoms (silently) and so hypertension has been labeled "the silent killer." It is called this because the disease can progress to finally develop any one or more of the several potentially fatal complications such as heart attacks or strokes. Uncomplicated hypertension may be present and remain unnoticed for many years, or even decades. This happens because there are no symptoms, and those affected fail to undergo periodic blood pressure screening.

Some people with uncomplicated hypertension, however, may experience symptoms such as headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, and blurred vision usually with blood pressure that is very high. The presence of symptoms can be a good thing in that they can prompt people to consult a doctor for treatment and make them more compliant in taking their medications. Often, however, a person's first contact with a physician may be after significant damage to the body has occurred. In many cases, a person visits or is brought to the doctor or an emergency department with a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or impaired vision (due to damage to the back part of the retina). Greater public awareness and frequent blood pressure screening may help to identify patients with undiagnosed high blood pressure before significant complications have developed.

About one out of every 100 (1%) people with hypertension is diagnosed with severe high blood pressure (accelerated or malignant hypertension) at their first visit to the doctor. In these patients, the diastolic blood pressure (see the following section) exceeds 140 mm Hg! Affected persons often experience severe headache, nausea, visual symptoms, dizziness, and sometimes kidney failure. Malignant hypertension is a medical emergency and requires urgent treatment to prevent a stroke (brain damage).

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Paula, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: May 21

I have no symptoms of high blood pressure. Actually, I felt worse on medication with BP in a normal range than I did when my BP was 220/120.

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Comment from: Jen1809, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: October 17

I feel pretty terrible all the time with a thumping headache and pulse in my head, I am exhausted all the time. When my father was my age he had a hemorrhage due to high blood pressure and both my brothers are on medications. Last week I had one of my 'turns' and my boss sent me to the doctor where they found my blood pressure to be 181/115. At the docs previously I had a diastolic of 99 yet no-one has ever put me on anything, I'm just left to get on with it, I'm really concerned. I'm in a medical profession and fully aware of what could happen to me!

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