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Signs And Symptoms: Hypertensive Crisis Treatment And Causes

Updated on April 1, 2013

Millions of Americans and even more millions of people around the world struggle with high blood pressure every day. Hypertension (high blood pressure) can lead to a multitude of other health problems including Heart Disease, Heart Attack, Peripheral Artery Disease, Stroke, Pulmonary Embolism, Congestive Heart Failure, Renal (Kidney) Failure, and more. However, Hypertension can sometimes become an acute emergency itself.

Hypertensive Crisis, a short-term spike in blood pressure, can cause intense pain, shortness of breath, anxiety, and can even cause stroke, dangerous heart dysrhythmias, and other immediate conditions that can cause death. Hypertensive Crisis can be caused by several different mechanisms and has several different ways to be treated. Below you will find some of the causes, the preferred routes of Hypertensive Crisis treatment, and what you can do to avoid Hypertensive Crisis if you struggle with Hypertension.

Causes Of Hypertensive Crisis

Although there are many different contributing factors to Hypertension or High Blood Pressure, the causes of true Hypertensive Crisis are far fewer. True Hypertensive Crisis occurs when a person's blood pressure gets so high that organs can actually be damaged. These pressures are generally higher than 180/120 and can even get as high as 300 systolic and higher.

Because these high pressures are so high, they generally require that the person already has a condition of high blood pressure that they deal with. In most cases, a person approaches such high pressures due to lack of taking their hypertension prescriptions. In other cases, a person may need a higher dosage of their prescription or even a prescription that works in a different way. Finally, a person who lives with high blood pressure, treated or not, that has a large stress incident in their life could experience a spike in pressure. This spike, along with anxiety due to the stress, could cause a dangerously high blood pressure, such as is seen in Hypertensive Crisis.

Danger : High Diastolic BP

For most people, the alarming number in a BP reading is the top number. They focus in on the "higher" number assuming it is what does the damage. Although the top number (Systolic Pressure) does have a negative impact on your health, both long and short term, the a high diastolic bp should be much more alarming.

First, diastolic pressure is the pressure on your vessels while the heart is refilling. Therefore, it is the baseline pressure that is the foundation for how high your systolic pressure gets (when the heart contracts). If you have a regularly high diastolic pressure, your blood vessels are exposed to high pressures All The Time! This can lead to hardening of the arteries, weakened blood vessels and other problems.

Second, if you have a high diastolic bp and your systolic pressure spikes for a short time, that means it will be even higher because it is built on top of your diastolic pressure. Add to that the long term effects of the high diastolic bp and you have a recipe for disaster.

Avoiding Hypertensive Crisis

There are several things a person can do to help avoid such a dangerous situation as Hypertensive Crisis. First, if you are on medication to treat High Blood Pressure, be sure to take your medication as prescribed. Set reminders on your cell phone, put a note on your breakfast cereal box, do whatever it takes to remember to take your medication when it is supposed to be taken.

Second, if you have trouble affording the medication you are currently prescribed, try asking your primary care physician for a similar medication for which a generic drug is available. If that is not possible, try contacting the company that manufactures the medication. In many cases these companies offer programs to assist low-income patients that are prescribed their drugs.

Third, if you begin experiencing signs of high blood pressure, headache, blurred vision, chest pain, palpitations or others, be sure to see your doctor. You may need to be changed to a different prescription that lowers blood pressure in a different way or you may need to have a higher dose of your current medication.

Hypertensive Crisis Treatment

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Initial Hypertensive Crisis treatment involves both reduction of the patients blood pressure and pain management. The patient's blood pressure must be reduced to the point that end-organ damage is avoided, yet current studies show that the MAP (mean arterial pressure: a mid point between the pressure during a heart's contraction and the pressure between contractions) must not be lowered too quickly or a different type of organ damage can occur.

Pain Management is important due to the fact that the pain from the spike in blood pressure can compound the problem. Often when people are experiencing sharp, harsh pain, their heart rate goes up quickly, driving their blood pressure up. In the situation of hypertensive crisis, this reaction can create a snowball effect.

Perhaps the most important Hypertensive Crisis treatment is what comes after the blood pressure spike has resolved and the pain is gone. After the initial issue, a doctor will want to know why the pressure spike occured and will tailor a treatment plan to best deal with the patient's health issues. If the patient needs new medication, a stronger prescription, or needs to be more diligent in taking their medications, a well planned, long term treatment of Hypertension is what will help patients lessen current and future damage from hypertension and hypertensive crisis.

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