Hypertensive Emergency

Hypertensive Emergency: What You Need to Know

Hypertensive emergency is a life-threatening medical condition caused by high blood pressure (hypertension) that rises quickly and can’t be controlled with medications. When you have a hypertensive emergency, your blood pressure is so high that it can cause damage to your organs such as your heart, brain, and kidneys. People with hypertension, or high blood pressure, must be aware and get prompt medical attention for warning signs and symptoms of a hypertensive emergency.

Hypertensive emergency usually occurs when your systolic blood pressure, the top number in a blood pressure reading, is higher than 180 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). It can also occur when your diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number in a blood pressure reading, is higher than 110 mmHg.

Signs and symptoms of hypertensive emergency include:

  • Headache
  • Problems with vision, such as blurry vision
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor or 911 for medical help right away. Hypertensive emergency is a medical emergency, and it requires immediate attention.

Your doctor will assess your condition and recommend a treatment plan. Treatment options for hypertensive emergency include hospitalization and medications to help lower your blood pressure quickly. Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, reducing sodium intake, getting regular exercise, and limiting or avoiding caffeine and alcohol. A diet high in fruits and vegetables with low fat content is also beneficial.

Managing high blood pressure is a lifelong commitment and requires close follow-up with your doctor. Without timely management, high blood pressure can lead to life-threatening complications, such as heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. If you have warning signs and symptoms of a hypertensive emergency, get medical help right away.