Hypertension or high blood pressure is known as the silent killer because in the majority of cases, there are very few or no symptoms during the initial stages of disease. Symptoms may appear when there is organ damage or the pressure has reached a very high level, of around 180/110 mm of Hg.
Some of the symptoms of hypertension or high blood pressure include:
- Headache - Some people with high blood pressure may experience headaches, but headaches often don't occur unless the pressure is significantly raised.
- Pain in the back of the neck
- Flushing and feeling hot
- Nausea and sometimes vomiting
- Severe hypertension may cause sudden and severe nosebleeds
- Irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Long term high blood pressure can lead to eye damage and blurred or double vision.
Effects of high blood pressure
Long term high pressure against arterial walls eventually damages and strains them. This may lead to several complications, the most well known complication being atherosclerosis which describes a build up of fatty deposits or plaques in the walls lining the arteries. As the walls thicken with the deposits, they calcify and become brittle with a narrow lumen which restricts the flow of blood.
Atherosclerosis is responsible for a host of other disease conditions such as stroke and heart attacks. The formation of a blood clot at the site of the plaque may block the artery completely and this leads to ischemia or a lack of blood supply to the heart, a common cause of heart attack.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc