The pressure which develops within the blood vessels is the result of the heart pumps and the vessels constricting, or producing resistance. Hypertension is one of the most common diseases. The vast majority of people who develop hypertension do not have any clinical symptoms. It is often known as the silent killer, due to it's lack of symptoms until the late stages. At least 60-70 million Americans suffer from this disorder. Left untreated, the increased blood pressure can lead to heart disease, vascular disease and kidney disease, just to name a few of the areas of the body that can be affected.
Causes of Hypertension
Many cases of hypertension are caused by increased resistance of the vasculature. This can occur if the blood vessels, particularly the smaller ones, become narrowed. Disorders of the adrenal glands can lead to hypertension. Renal artery narrowing, or stenosis, can produce hypertension. Chronic glomerulonephritis and renal failure are both secondary causes of hypertension. Pregnancy and the use of oral contraceptives in women can also lead to hypertension. When a cause of hypertension cannot be found, which is very common, it is termed primary or essential hypertension.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypertension
At least half of the people with hypertension are probably unaware of having it. The reason is that it often does not produce clinical symptoms. Chronic hypertension leads to vascular damage. This can lead to inadequate blood supply to any organ. In addition, diseased arteries can form clots or become occluded. These occlusions or emboli can produce strokes of the brain and other organs. Chronically elevated blood pressure makes the heart pump harder. This can lead to enlargement of the heart muscle. The combination of diseased vessels supplying the heart and excessive strain on the heart can lead to angina or heart attack. Strokes are a common complication of long standing hypertension. They can occur from microaneurysms that form in the brain or from emboli or occluded vessels. Chronic hypertension can lead to renal disease. Elevated levels of toxins can produce mental changes and problems with fluid and electrolyte balance. Severe, acute hypertension, or a hypertensive crisis, is rare. It can produce severe headache, drowsiness, confusion, numbness, tingling in the hands and feet, coughing blood, nosebleeds, and severe shortness of breath.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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