Hypertension and Hypertensive Crisis
A hypertensive crisis is a sudden, severe increase in blood pressure. The blood pressure reading is 180/120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater. A hypertensive crisis is a medical emergency. It can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other life-threatening health problems.
Severely high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and body organs, including the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes. During a hypertensive crisis, the heart may not be able to pump blood effectively.
Hypertensive crises are grouped into two categories.
- Urgent hypertensive crisis. Blood pressure is 180/120 mm Hg or greater. There are no signs of organ damage.
- Emergency hypertensive crisis. Blood pressure is 180/120 mm Hg or greater. There is life-threatening damage to the body's organs.
Causes of a hypertensive crisis include:
- Forgetting to take blood pressure medication
- Suddenly stopping certain heart medications, such as beta blockers
- Medication interactions
- Tumor of the adrenal gland (pheochromocytoma)
Symptoms of a hypertensive crisis may include:
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Not responding to stimulation (unresponsiveness)
- Severe headache
- Shortness of breath
If you get a very high blood pressure reading at home and don't have any symptoms, relax for a few minutes. Then check your blood pressure again. If it's still very high, seek medical care.