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What Is Hypertensive Emergency?

What Is Hypertensive Emergency?

Hypertensive emergency refers to increase of blood pressure to such an extent that it leads to severe damage to body organs. Accordingly, blood pressure of an individual spikes in such a way his/her readings display 180/100 or even high. In this situation, doctors have to lower the blood pressure immediately to prevent the respective damage and for this, they admit patients in an ICU i.e. intensive care unit of a hospital.1

Hypertensive Emergency Symptoms

Hypertensive emergency has following common symptoms-

  • Blurred vision or headache
  • Increase in the chest pain
  • Increase in confusion
  • Increase in breathing shortness problem
  • Seizure
  • Edema or swelling because of fluid buildup in various tissues2

Frequency of Hypertensive Emergency

Hypertensive emergency is a rare health condition and it takes place when your hypertension remains untreated. Other reason includes your ignorance to intake over-the-counter medicine or blood pressure medicine, both of which make your condition of high blood pressure worse.3

Organ Damages Due To Hypertensive Emergency At A Glance

Hypertensive emergency may cause following organ damages-

  • Bleeding in the human brain i.e. stroke
  • Changes in one’s mental status, including confusion
  • Chest pain or angina in its unstable form
  • Heart failure
  • Pulmonary edema or formation of fluid in lungs
  • Heart attack
  • Aortic dissection or aneurysm
  • Eclampsia causes during the gestation period

Diagnosis Of Hypertensive Emergency

To diagnose the condition of hypertensive emergency, doctors ask a few questions related to your medical history. They also take information about each of the medications you intake i.e. both recreational drugs and nonprescription drugs. In addition, patients have to inform whether they intake any dietary or herbal supplement to the doctor.

Tests to Monitor Blood Pressure

Doctors use specific tests to monitor the blood pressure and in turn, access the damage caused to any of the body organs. Accordingly-

  • Monitoring of the blood pressure on a regular basis
  • Optical examination to detect any bleeding or swelling
  • Urine and blood test

Hypertensive Emergency Treatment

The main objective to treat a patient with hypertensive emergency is to lower the blood pressure level as soon as possible. For this, doctors use IV i.e. intravenous blood pressure medications/injections to prevent any further damage to the body organ. Later on, you have to undergo with therapy treatment specific to the body organ that has suffered damages due to hypertensive emergency.

Hypertension or high blood pressure in some cases may cause damages to your body for years before its symptoms develop. Because of this, when you leave it uncontrolled, you end up with a poor life quality, disability and heart attack in its fatal form.4 Approximately, half of the individuals with untreated hypertension die because of heart problems associated with poor flow of blood i.e. ischemic heart problem and stroke. Positively, you may control the situation with a few common lifestyle changes and treatment to control the high blood pressure and thereby, reduce your risk related to any life-threatening complication.

What Will Happen when Hypertension Remains Untreated?

When you ignore the problem of hypertension or leave it untreated, you will end up bearing many severe health issues. These include-

  • Vision impairment or any other similar type of vision problems
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney damage or failure and
  • Heart failure5


Based on the aforementioned aspects about high blood pressure, we should say that hypertensive emergency is a silent disease, as hypertension does not show any noticeable symptom. However, if you leave it untreated, hypertension causes heart problems, including heart attack and congestive heart failure. In addition, high blood pressure may cause kidney problems and stroke. Because of this, it is essential for you to undergo regular physical exams, so that you make sure that your blood pressure is in its normal range. Especially, you have to undergo regular blood pressure checkup in case you are overweight, have high blood pressure in the past or have family history related to hypertension.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 24, 2022

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