Hypertensive emergencies are also known as malignant hypertension, and occur when blood pressure suddenly spikes to 180/120 mm Hg or higher, accompanied by symptoms such as chest pain, headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, or visual changes. This is a life-threatening condition that can damage vital organs or cause complications such as aortic dissection, brain bleeding, or stroke.
Seek immediate emergency medical attention if you suspect a hypertensive emergency, as only a small percentage of people with hypertension experience this during their lifetime. To prevent hypertensive emergencies, take your prescribed blood pressure medications and avoid stimulant drugs that can cause sudden spikes in blood pressure.
Hypertensive urgency, on the other hand, is when blood pressure rises above 180/120 mm Hg without any symptoms. This condition is usually managed by adjusting medications to lower blood pressure as soon as possible to prevent progression to a hypertensive emergency. While only a few people with hypertensive urgency require hospitalization, it's important to contact your doctor or seek medical care if you experience this condition.
White coat hypertension refers to a temporary increase in blood pressure due to stress, such as when visiting a doctor's office or being stuck in traffic. Although previously considered benign, recent studies have linked white coat hypertension with increased cardiovascular risk. Your doctor may monitor your blood pressure over a period of time in different settings before diagnosing hypertension and starting medication. If your blood pressure readings are out of range, discuss them with your doctor to prevent complications.