High blood pressure or hypertension is a chronic condition that may lead to other complications, including organ damage, gradually over a period of time. The blood pressure may become very high and severe all of a sudden resulting in a condition referred to as hypertensive crisis. Hypertensive crisis includes both hypertensive urgency and hypertensive emergency, and it may result in other debilitating conditions like a stroke. In hypertensive crisis the systolic blood pressure would be above 180 mm Hg while diastolic blood pressure may be above 120 mm Hg.
- Hypertensive urgency – The blood pressure is very high, but the organs are not damaged. Medications are used to bring the blood pressure down to normal.
- Hypertensive emergency – In this condition the high blood pressure may lead to organ damage. This often requires hospitalization to control the spike in blood pressure and to prevent any damage the organs. Hypertensive emergency may lead to complications like heart failure, aneurysm, stroke, and chest pain.
Hypertensive emergency results from uncontrolled and untreated hypertension.
Hypertensive emergency is characterized by symptoms including:
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or changes in consciousness
- Chest pain that increases over a period of time
- Shortness of breath
- Severe anxiety
- Swelling or edema of tissues
The most common clinical presentations of hypertensive emergency include congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema, and hypertensive encephalopathy.
Blood and urine tests, regular monitoring of blood pressure, and an eye exam may reveal the presence of hypertensive emergency. If you or any of your loved ones get a very high blood pressure of the order of 180 or higher in the upper reading and 110 or higher in the lower reading, do not wait for the pressure to come down on its own. Immediate medical attention is required to prevent organ damage. If the patient has a history of very high blood pressure, the chances of getting hypertensive emergency is all the more.
Some of the common causes of hypertensive emergency include:
- Heart failure
- Not taking blood pressure medication regularly
- Drug interactions
- Kidney failure
Treatment for this condition includes medications to bring down the pressure immediately. These medications are often given intravenously to prevent possible organ damage. If organ damage has occurred, specific treatments may be recommended to bring the system under control.