Hypertension Children

Hypertension in Children and Teenagers

In the United States, almost 60 million people (about one in every five people) suffer from high blood pressure. Children are not immune to hypertension. Approximately three percent of children are afflicted with hypertension, and the number of children diagnosed with the condition appears to be increasing.

Some children suffer from a rare form of hypertension known as pulmonary hypertension. Children with pulmonary hypertension develop abnormally high blood pressure in the lungs.

Symptoms of Hypertension in Children

Monitoring children for hypertension is important, as this condition can lead to serious health complications if left untreated. Unfortunately, many people with hypertension don’t know they have it, as symptoms often don’t appear unless the condition is very severe.

In some children, hypertension results in visible symptoms. If your child has any of these symptoms, consult your physician right away:

  • Frequent dizziness
  • Frequent shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Nosebleeds
  • Persistent headaches
  • Recurring fatigue
  • Vision changes.

Hypertension Risk in Children

Children with sleep apnea have a high risk of hypertension due to the strain this condition puts on their bodies. Sleep apnea is a condition in which an airway obstruction causes a person to repeatedly stop breathing for at least ten seconds through the course of the night’s sleep.

Overweight children also have a greater risk for hypertension than healthy children. To reduce your child’s risk of developing high blood pressure, make sure he or she exercises and eats a healthy, balanced diet.

Other causes of hypertension in children include kidney conditions, urinary conditions and heart problems. Children with these conditions should be checked for blood pressure regularly.

Diagnosing Hypertension in Children and Teens

Starting at age three, your doctor should begin monitoring your child’s blood pressure. If your child endures any acute illness, your child’s pediatrician will also regularly monitor their blood pressure for changes.

While these periodic blood pressure checks are sufficient for children and teens with normal blood pressure, those with hypertension will need more frequent checks to help doctors determine how to lower their blood pressure.

Hypertension Treatment for Kids and Teens

Treatment for children with hypertension varies, depending on the cause of hypertension. For example, if obesity is the cause of heightened blood pressure, managing a child’s weight through diet and exercise are the primary methods of treatment. Typically, medical professionals recommend making these types of lifestyle changes before prescribing medication to children.

However, medications are often an important part of hypertension treatment when children suffer from other medical conditions, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Other complications related to high blood pressure
  • Severe high blood pressure.

Common hypertension medications include:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers
  • Beta blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Diuretics.

Keep in mind that the choice and course of medication varies. While some children with hypertension require long-term medication, others can stop medication after losing weight or dealing with underlying causes of hypertension.

Although hypertension medication tends to be safe for children, as with any medication, some side effects can occur. The most common effects of medication include dizziness, dry mouth and fluid retention.

Getting treatment for hypertension is essential to preventing more serious conditions developing. Just like adults, children with untreated hypertension are at risk of suffering from heart failure, kidney disease and stroke.

Resources

Luma, G., Spiotta, R. (2006). Hypertension in children and adolescents. Retrieved January 22, 2010, from the American Academy of Family Physicians Web site: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/0501/p1558.html.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). High blood pressure and children: Early treatment offers hope. Retrieved January 22, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/high-blood-pressure/HI00080/METHOD=print.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2007). High blood pressure and children: Watch your child’s weight. Retrieved January 22, 2010, from the Riverside Online Web site: http://www.riversideonline.com/health_reference/Childrens-Health/HI00049.cfm.

Nemours Foundation: Teen Health Staff. (n.d.). High blood pressure (hypertension). Retrieved January 22, 2010, from the Nemours Foundation: Teen Health Web site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/hypertension.html#.