What is hypertensive crisis?

Hypertensive crisis or high blood pressure occurs if the blood pressure quickly rises. It is important to note that there are 2 types – hypertensive urgency and emergency.

Hypertensive urgency

If the individual has a blood pressure reading of 180/110 or higher, wait for around 5 minutes and get another reading. If the second reading is still high, seek immediate medical care. Prompt assessment of organ function is vital in determining the ideal course of action to take. The high reading may or might not be accompanied by one or several of the following:


The high reading may or might not be accompanied by headache and shortness of breath.

The treatment for hypertensive urgency might involve adjustments or adding medications, but rarely necessitate hospitalization.

Hypertensive emergency

Hypertensive emergency typically occurs if the blood pressure reading exceeds systolic of 180 or diastolic of 120, but impairment of the organ can occur even at lower levels among those who had previously high blood pressure readings.

The outcome of uncontrolled blood pressure within this range can be severe and includes the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Damage to the eyes and kidneys
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Loss of kidney function
  • Eclampsia
  • Aortic dissection
  • Angina

What should I do if hypertensive crisis is suspected?

If the individual has a blood pressure reading of 180 systolic or higher or 110 diastolic or higher along with indications of potential organ damage such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, back pain, visual changes, numbness or weakness and speaking difficulty, do not wait for the blood pressure reading to lower but call for emergency assistance right away.

When an individual is diagnosed with high blood pressure, regularly monitor the blood pressure levels and take the prescribed medications. If possible during an emergency, having these records can provide useful information to the medical team providing treatment.


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