High blood pressure, or hypertension, 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.
The effects of undiagnosed high blood pressure tend to creep up, without warning, to damage your heart and circulation, leading to complications. A routine blood pressure check is therefore one of the most important health screens as it helps to detect this ‘silent killer’ so you can take steps to bring a high blood pressure down.
Symptoms of high blood pressure
High blood pressure temporarily goes high during strenuous exercise. This is normal and 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 you have a persistent high blood pressure due to hypertension, few symptoms will occur. If symptoms or signs of high blood pressure do appear, they tend to be non-specific such as:
- tension headache
- feeling dizzy
- visual disturbances
- frequent nose bleeds
- 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.
Passing urine at night can be a sign of high blood pressure
One common symptom that occurs with high blood pressure is regularly having to get up at night to pass urine. Known as nocturia, frequent urination at night can occur 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 can also be a side effect of some high blood pressure treatments, especially diuretics and calcium channel blockers.
Nocturia also occurs with other health conditions, especially an enlarged prostate gland in men, and does not necessarily mean you have a high blood pressure. 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 – and to check your blood pressure regularly.
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.
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