High blood pressure usually causes few, if any symptoms – even when your blood pressure is dangerously high. Because high blood pressure causes few symptoms and signs, undiagnosed hypertension can cause increasing damage, pounding away at your artery linings until serious complications occur. This unnoticed damage tends to creep up, without warning, to damage your heart and circulation. A routine blood pressure check is therefore one of the most important health screens as it helps to detect and avoid this ‘silent killer’.
Symptoms of hypertension
When your blood pressure temporarily goes high, such as during strenuous exercise, you usually notice few symptoms, although some people develop a pounding sensation throughout their body, especially in their ears or a throbbing sensation around the teeth.
Similarly, when your blood pressure is consistently raised due to hypertension, few symptoms occur. Those symptoms that do appear tend to be non-specific, such as:
- tension headache
- feeling dizzy
- visual disturbances
- frequent nosebleeds
- broken blood vessel in the white of the eye.
These symptoms can occur with other conditions and are not usually a sign of high blood pressure, but if they do occur, it’s important to see your doctor to determine the underlying cause.
Do you pass urine at night?
One common symptom that occurs with high blood pressure is regularly having to get up at night to pass urine. Known as nocturia, this symptom can occur with hypertension if fluid retention is contributing to your high blood pressure. When you lie flat at night, any excess fluid in your body is redistributed and filtered out by your kidneys.
Nocturia also occurs with other health conditions, especially an enlarged prostate gland in men, and does not necessarily mean you have hypertension. If you do have to get up most nights to pass urine, however, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to find out why.
Signs of high blood pressure in the eyes
Sometimes high blood pressure is picked up by an optometrist during a routine eye test. When visualising the tiny arteries and veins in the back of the eye, an optometrist may see signs of:
- over-extended vessels (copper or silver wiring)
- ‘nipping’ at points where an artery crosses over a vein
In more severe cases, there may be:
- tortuous vessels
- leaking of fluid (exudates) from blood vessels into the retina
- flame-shaped haemorrhages
- swelling of the optic disc.
Although these blood vessel changes are visualised in the eye, they reflect the damage that is occurring throughout the body in other organs, too.
How often should you have your blood pressure checked?
It is important to have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis – ideally once a year, as it tends to increase with age.
If your blood pressure is starting to creep up, changing your diet and lifestyle can help to lower your blood pressure significantly.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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