Hypertension or high blood pressure demands medical attention because it can be life-threatening. One of the most concerning aspects of this condition is the lack of symptoms, which can leave people unaware they need care. Those with high blood pressure should regularly have it checked. Approximately a third of adults over the age of 20 have this condition.
Hypertension causes headaches, often of a dull and persistent nature. Headaches are more likely to develop if blood pressure is very high. These headaches can present in various areas, though the back of the head near the neck is quite common. They tend to feel similar to stress headaches but may happen more frequently.
Shortness of Breath
Older adults and people with lower levels of fitness may experience shortness of breath after climbing stairs, running for a bus, or other energy expending activities. Often, this sensation is of little concern, but it can also be a sign of high blood pressure, most likely due to gradual thickening and stiffening of the heart wall as the condition progresses. A person who experiences shortness of breath frequently should consider a blood pressure check.
Pains in the Chest
Chest pains could indicate high blood pressure but that’s not always the case. It is also common for people to experience chest pains when they are having a heart attack or a panic attack. Regardless, lasting chest pain of any type should prompt medical evaluation. In the case of hypertension, pain may stem from damage to the arteries leading from the heart. High blood pressure can also lead to an enlarged heart if left unchecked.
Lack of sleep, stress, and hectic schedules all cause exhaustion, as do many medical conditions. Exhaustion on its own probably is not an indicator of high blood pressure, but it could be one symptom. For adults, normal blood pressure is 120/80. If a person feels tired frequently, the extra energy the heart must expend to pump blood could be the cause.
Nausea is often related to overeating, food poisoning, or ulcer or gallbladder disease, but it can also be a symptom of high blood pressure. If there is no history of diseases affecting the gallbladder, ulcers, or dietary changes that could explain the symptom and yet a person finds himself feeling nauseous or vomiting on repeated occasions, a doctor may look at blood pressure as well as other potential causes. Early detection of high blood pressure reduces the likelihood of serious side effects.
Untreated, high blood pressure or hypertension can lead to problems with vision and other eye diseases. This occurs when the excess pressure damages blood vessels in the eyes. Eye disease caused by hypertension is called hypertensive retinopathy, which develops over time if high blood pressure is not controlled.
Ringing in the Ear
A constant ring or buzz that has no external source — tinnitus — could be a sign of dangerously high blood pressure levels. Increases in the blood pressure can lead to pounding in the head that can sound like a ringing. Often, people who have both tinnitus and high blood pressure find the symptoms of the former more intense. Hypertension can increase the likelihood that a person will develop tinnitus.
Extreme hypertension or malignant hypertension, when blood pressure is over 180/120, can cause lightheadedness or confusion and even distorted speech. Some people experience problems with memory and problem-solving. This can be a specifically dangerous effect of high blood pressure because the metal symptoms may render the individual unaware of the issue. This is often a more advanced symptom of hypertension that could indicate a person is having, or on the verge of having, a stroke or developing serious damage to the kidneys or the eyes.
High blood pressure does not directly cause nosebleeds or epistaxis, but hypertension can exacerbate one if it occurs. Hypertension may interfere with blood clotting and makes the blood move more quickly. It is also possible people with hypertension will experience more nosebleeds than people with normal blood pressure because their blood vessels are more fragile due to damage or deterioration.
High blood pressure can damage many parts of the body, as is clear from the wide range of symptoms it can cause. The kidneys are just one of the organs that can suffer damage if hypertension goes untreated or becomes severe. Hypertension can damage the blood vessels that feed the kidneys, which makes the organ less capable of carrying out its vital roles. If a doctor diagnoses kidney disease prior to high blood pressure, the latter is likely something he or she will investigate as the cause. Kidney damage can lead to many of the same symptoms as hypertension, including nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath, but also symptoms specific to the urinary tract such as feeling pressure or pain during urination and changes in urine color or volume.