Hypertension: When Should I Call a Doctor?
Emergency situations with high blood pressure, called hypertensive crisis, are common when blood pressure is very high. This is a serious situation, as it may lead to organ damage. If the increase in blood pressure is not too high to cause any problems to any of the organs it is referred to as hypertensive urgency. The pressure can be controlled using drugs in this case. Hypertensive emergency refers to the condition in which the pressure is very high leading to organ damage. Extremely high measures of blood pressure in the order of 180 mm of Hg diastolic pressure and 120 mm Hg of systolic pressure is found in hypertensive emergency. This condition requires immediate medical attention to prevent the damage to vital organs and death.
People with hypertensive emergency conditions need to be admitted to the emergency department for urgent care.
When left untreated emergency conditions in hypertension can cause:
- Heart failure
- Heart attack
- Chest pain
- Edema of the lungs
Hypertensive emergency is a condition that often occurs due to prolonged hypertension that is untreated. It may also result from taking over-the-counter medication for hypertension that increased the hypertension. It may also be caused by kidney failure, rupture of aorta, drug interactions, and stroke.
Hypertensive emergency is characterized by:
- Blurred vision
- Severe anxiety
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain that increases with time
- Shortness of breath
- Edema of tissue
Proper diagnosis and initiation of treatment is very important in the management of this condition. Understanding the complete medical history of the patient and physical examination helps the doctor to diagnose the condition. The physician might ask about the present and past medical condition of the patient, and also the medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) taken by the patient.
To evaluate the damage caused to the organs, the blood pressure of the patient is continuously monitored. Blood and urine tests and physical examination of the eyes to look for swelling and bleeding also helps in assessing the damage.
Any treatment plan used for hypertensive emergencies focuses on bringing down the blood pressure as soon as possible. Medications are given intravenously to make the transition soon and to prevent any further damage to the internal organs. Specific treatment is then given to the organ damage that has already happened.