High blood pressure: Headaches could indicate malignant hypertension – what is it?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects about one of every three adults.  This common condition has little to no symptoms, which means that many people that have high blood pressure don’t even know that they have it. Having high blood pressure is also a strong indicator of increased risk for heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked at least annually by a medical professional. Experiencing headaches could indicate malignant hypertension.

According to health experts, headaches due to high blood pressure typically occur on both sides of the head.

The headache pain tends to pulsate and often gets worse with physical activity.

High blood pressure can cause headaches because it affects the blood-brain barrier.

Hypertension can result in excess pressure on the brain, which can cause blood to leak from the blood vessels in this organ.

In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, secondary headaches attributed to hypertension was analysed.

The study said: “Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring in patients with mild and moderate hypertension has shown no convincing relationship between blood pressure fluctuations over a 24-hour period and presence or absence of headache.

“However, headaches are associated to various disorders that lead to abrupt, severe, and paroxysmal elevations in blood pressure. In this paper, the secondary headaches attributed to acute crises of hypertension and the criteria for diagnosing each of them have been reviewed. 

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“Among the vast variety of secondary headaches, a considerable group is related to high blood pressure. Commonly, an abrupt elevation of arterial blood pressure is responsible for headache rather than the absolute value.

“Headache, as a symptom, has a prevalence of about 20 percent in hypertensive urgency.

“It has a bilateral throbbing quality.

“Helpful diagnostic criteria have been validated for the headaches based on the hypertensive crisis without encephalopathy regardless of the etiology.”

The American Heart Association (AHA), however, claims headaches are not a symptom of high blood pressure.

In fact, the American Heart Association suggests that people with high blood pressure are less likely to have recurring headaches.

However, very high blood pressure can trigger an event known as malignant hypertension which is also referred to as a hypertensive crisis.

Malignant hypertension (MHT) is the most severe form of hypertension and was originally defined by two extremely high blood pressure with the diastolic blood pressure above 130 mmHg.

During a hypertensive crisis, pressure in the cranium builds as a result of your blood pressure suddenly spiking up to critical levels, said Medical News Today.

The health site continued: “The resulting headache feels unlike any other kind of migraine or head pain.

“Traditional headache treatments such as aspirin are ineffective to relieve the pain.

“In addition to a headache, malignant hypertension usually is also associated with blurred vision, chest pain and nausea.

“If you believe you are experiencing a hypertensive crisis, you need to get to a hospital emergency room right away.”

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