Symptoms of Hypertension

On many occasions, hypertension can be an asymptomatic disease. In others, it creates signs that can warn people that there's an underlying problem. Learn about some of the symptoms of hypertension and when to seek medical assistance.
Symptoms of Hypertension

Written by Josberth Johan Benitez Colmenares, 17 June, 2021

Last update: 17 June, 2021

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently about 1.13 billion people suffering from hypertension around the world. This condition can cause the development of other diseases, especially if long-term treatment isn’t applied. Knowing the symptoms of hypertension goes a long way towards alerting people to a possible problem.

Hypertension occurs when the pressure exerted on the walls of the blood vessels is greater than normal. It varies depending on the case, but it’s usually diagnosed when the systolic pressure is above 140 mmHg and the diastolic pressure is above 90 mmHg. Quite often it doesn’t produce symptoms, and that’s the problem when trying to diagnose it from home.

Main symptoms of hypertension

As some studies have well pointed out, most patients with hypertension don’t develop any symptoms. For this reason, it is considered a silent disease, and the absence of some of the signs that we’re going to describe now doesn’t necessarily mean that the person isn’t suffering from hypertension.

The only real way to know if you have it is through a blood pressure monitor. In general, if the values exceed the conventional spectrum for two different days, this is a sign that the person is hypertensive.

Although the measurement can be carried out at home with a digital blood pressure monitor, a specialist’s assessment is necessary in order to determine the possible side effects and treatment. Among the most common symptoms of hypertension we can highlight the following:

Headaches

Although there is some controversy surrounding this relationship, research indicates that headaches are a relatively common symptom when tension isn’t controlled correctly. Headaches can be mild, moderate, or severe and can worsen in the absence of medications or when the blood pressure values exceed the normal ones.

Many patients report that the headache caused is a throbbing one. In the second edition of the International Classification of Headache Disorders, hypertensive headache was included in the section “Headache attributed to disorders of homeostasis”, in section 10.3.

Dizziness

Symptoms of hypertension include dizziness
Especially in older people, dizziness is often associated with high blood pressure.

Dizziness is another of the most frequent symptoms of hypertension, as reported by several studies in this regard. These may be directly related to the increased pressure in the blood vessels or the dose of treatment used to regulate it.

Be that as it may, these episodes are more frequent after you have spent a long time sitting down and then you make a sudden movement, or also when you have been standing for a long time. They’re generally mild, although, depending on the context, they can be moderate or severe.

Difficulty breathing

A relationship has been found between shortness of breath and hypertension. The symptom is described as a tightness in the chest, difficulty holding in air or inhaling it, or simply as a feeling of suffocation. It’s associated with pulmonary hypertension, in any of its varieties.

Keep in mind that this is a very ambiguous sign, also present in other conditions such as COPD, asthma, heart conditions, and pneumonia. It can also develop when faced with panic attacks and anxiety, as well as being common in obese people.

Nosebleeds

Although less common than the others, nosebleeds are also among the most common symptoms of hypertension. Research seems to confirm this hypothesis, as blood pressure is higher during an attack of epistaxis (nasal bleeding).

Other research suggests that this sign isn’t due to a ruptured blood vessel. Lesions in the vascular endothelium, changes in coagulation processes, and microcirculatory disorders are believed to be responsible here.

Accompanying these symptoms, there can also be frequent occurrences of:

  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Anxiety
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Vision changes (difficulty focusing and blurred vision, for example).

Rare symptoms of high blood pressure

The uncommon symptoms of high blood pressure generally occur as a result of severe disorders. If the disease hasn’t been treated for a long time, or some sort of change has affected the values at higher levels, the following may occur:

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can also arise unexpectedly, quite often due to the severe dizziness and this can result in a lack of appetite. It may be due to the side effects of hypertension treatment.

Possible complications of high blood pressure

If the patient has had high blood pressure for quite a while, even if it doesn’t produce any symptoms, several severe complications may develop which will affect their quality of life. There are many sequelae caused by uncontrolled tension, especially in the following organs:

  • Arteries: This is known as vascular disease. The arteries can harden or narrow, limiting blood flow. Another complication is aneurysms, which can cause internal bleeding that can put the patient’s life at risk.
  • Heart: This can manifest itself through different conditions, although the most common are heart failure, coronary artery disease, and an enlargement of the left side of the heart.
  • Brain: Directly caused by hypertension or as a result of previous damage. The patient may develop strokes, transient ischemic attack, or dementia or decreased cognitive ability.
  • Kidneys: High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels that the kidney uses to filter waste from the blood. This, in turn, can lead to kidney failure or glomerulosclerosis (scarring of the kidney).

All these complications can develop in people without any visible symptoms, at least until the condition has become quite advanced.

In medicine, there’s a term called hypertensive urgency. This is the increase in blood pressure over 180 mmHg / 120 mmHg without any obvious signs. These types of episodes can put the patient’s life at risk.

When to seek medical assistance?

The symptoms of hypertension are very varied
Early diagnosis and timely treatment of this disease are important aspects.

The doctor usually measures your blood pressure in routine visits. As it’s recommended to do a blood test at least once a year, the doctor will be able to keep track of the pressure levels in your blood vessels.

However, when the person has one or more risk factors, then these values should be closely monitored. A family history of hypertension, being overweight or obese, not controlling your diet, having a sedentary lifestyle, stress, and an excessive consumption of alcohol or tobacco are just some of them.

Faced with these scenarios, people must measure their tension on a recurring basis. Ideally, it should be carried out by a specialist, although it can also be performed at home through a digital blood pressure monitor.

If you start to notice any of the described symptoms of hypertension, or discover abnormal values through the blood pressure monitor, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your doctor.

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