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Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) in Children

Blood pressure naturally arises and falls throughout the day, but it can cause problems if it stays high for a long time. Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. In children, hypertension can be primary (similar to “essential hypertension” in adults), or secondary (due to another condition such as kidney disease, endocrine disease, or narrowing of the aorta, the major artery that leads from the heart to the body).

Common risk factors for primary hypertension in children include:

  • Family history
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Inactivity or sedentary lifestyle
  • Using tobacco
  • High sodium diet

Signs & Symptoms

Most of the time, there are no symptoms associated with hypertension. For many, high blood pressure is found when they visit their health care provider or have it checked elsewhere.

Because there are no symptoms, people can develop heart disease and kidney problems without knowing they have high blood pressure.

Malignant hypertension is a dangerous form of very high blood pressure. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Vision changes
  • Nosebleeds

Diagnosis

Diagnosing hypertension early can help prevent heart disease, stroke, eye problems, and chronic kidney disease.

A Deborah physician will measure a patient’s blood pressure many times before diagnosing hypertension. It is normal for blood pressure to be different based on the time of day which is why repeat testing is important.

Once pediatric hypertension is identified, evaluation may include testing to exclude causes of secondary hypertension (blood tests, urine tests, imaging studies).

Treatment for pediatric hypertension depends on the cause and severity of blood pressure evaluation. All patients are counseled regarding healthy diet and keeping to a regular exercise routine as the mainstay of intervention. Some children may require medication to control their blood pressure.