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Hypertensive Crisis

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 5, 2024.

What is a hypertensive crisis?

A hypertensive crisis is a sudden spike in blood pressure to 180/120 or higher. A normal blood pressure is 119/79 or lower. A hypertensive crisis is also known as acute hypertension. This is a medical emergency that could lead to organ damage or be life-threatening.

Blood Pressure Readings

What increases my risk for a hypertensive crisis?

What are the signs and symptoms of a hypertensive crisis?

How is a hypertensive crisis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask if you have health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. He or she will ask what your symptoms are and if you have ever had surgery. Tell him or her what medicines you take and if you have ever used illegal drugs. Your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure on both arms and listen to your heart and lungs. He or she will examine your eyes closely and also test your strength, balance, reflexes, and memory. The following tests may be done to check for damage to your heart, brain, and kidneys:

How is a hypertensive crisis treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of your hypertensive crisis. Healthcare providers will lower your blood pressure and try to prevent organ damage. You may need the following:

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What are the risks of a hypertensive crisis?

Even with treatment, you are at risk for a heart attack, stroke, or kidney damage. You could develop a bulge or tear in the wall of your aorta (the artery that supplies blood throughout your body). Fluid could collect in your lungs and make it hard for you to breathe. You are at risk for blindness, eye damage, seizures, as well as brain damage.

How can I help prevent another hypertensive crisis?

Where can I find support and more information?

Call 911 for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.