Hypertension Complications

Symptoms of hypertension are often undetectable until serious complications develop. Even when hypertension symptoms are absent, complications of hypertension can affect multiple organs throughout the body.

High blood pressure is especially damaging to the small, delicate blood vessels in the circulatory system, which can slowly damage organ function. Rapid increases in blood pressure, such as those seen in pregnancy induced hypertension, can result in sudden, life-threatening medical emergencies.

Hypertension Complications

Hypertension has a widespread effect on the body. The below conditions, among others, can occur as a result of high blood pressure.

  • Aneurysm: Hypertension symptoms weaken blood vessel walls, which can result in an aneurysm. This bulge in the blood vessel can rupture, causing internal bleeding. A ruptured aneurysm is a life-threatening event.
  • Atherosclerosis: Damage caused by hypertension can cause arteries to thicken and lose elasticity. Hardened arteries, or “atherosclerosis,” can cause heart attacks and strokes.
  • Coronary Artery Disease: Hypertension can cause coronary heart disease (CAD)if the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle are damaged. Symptoms of CAD include angina, arrhythmias and heart attacks.
  • Heart Failure: High blood pressure can weaken the heart to the extent that it can no longer supply sufficient blood to the body.
  • Kidney Complications: Complications of hypertension include kidney problems, up to and including total renal failure. Kidney aneurysms and renal tissue scarring are also possible hypertension complications.
  • Mental Difficulties: Damage to the brain’s blood vessels can affect cognitive functioning. In some cases, hypertension can affect a number of mental functions, including critical thinking, language and reaction times.
  • Osteoporosis: Some people with hypertension lose vital calcium through their urine. Insufficient calcium can cause osteoporosis, or a decrease in bone density. Older women, already a high-risk group for osteoporosis, are at even greater risk if they have hypertension.
  • Preeclampsia/Eclampsia: The sudden onset of hypertension during pregnancy can trigger systemic conditions that threaten the life of the mother and child.
  • Pulmonary Edema: Pulmonary edema is a life-threatening condition that occurs when fluid in the lungs interferes with the heart’s ability to pump blood.
  • Sexual Dysfunction: Men who have hypertension are more likely to have erectile dysfunction than men with normal blood pressure.
  • Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea occurs when an airway collapses during sleep, reducing oxygen intake levels. Sleep apnea is a common hypertension complication, occurring in about 50 percent of cases.
  • Stroke: Damage to the blood vessels reduces blood flow to the brain. If the brain doesn’t get adequate oxygen and other nutrients carried in the blood stream, brain cells begin to die. Strokes also occur due to aneurysms or blood clots. In severe cases, strokes can lead to permanent brain damage and can even be fatal.
  • Vascular Dementia: Vascular dementia develops when high blood pressure causes damage to the brain’s arteries, narrowing arteries or causing strokes. Cognitive abilities may be affected.
  • Vision Loss: The small blood vessels in the eyes can be damaged as a result of high blood pressure, causing nerve damage or bleeding. Blurred vision can occur, as can blindness.

Resources

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). High blood pressure dangers: Hypertension’s effects on your body. Retrieved January 27, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/high-blood-pressure/HI00062/METHOD=print.

< p>Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). High blood pressure (hypertension). Retrieved January 27, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/DS00100/DSECTION=complications.

Wrong Diagnosis Staff. (n.d.). Complications of hypertension. Retrieved January 27, 2010, from the Wrong Diagnosis Web site: http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/h/hypertension/complic.htm.