Malignant hypertension, also known as a hypertensive crisis, is a severe cardiovascular condition characterized by a sharp rise in your blood pressure. This extremely high blood pressure can damage organs throughout your body. Here are three things you need to know about malignant hypertension.

What are the signs of malignant hypertension?

Unlike hypertension, which doesn't usually cause any symptoms, malignant hypertension causes obvious symptoms which can't be ignored. Symptoms may be reminiscent of a heart attack and include severe pain in your chest or shortness of breath. Nausea and vomiting can also occur, and you may feel very anxious.

The extremely high blood pressure can also give you a severe headache and blurred vision. You may even experience seizures or pass out. If you notice any of these symptoms, take them seriously and get to a hospital right away.

The hospital will diagnose the condition by checking your blood pressure. It's common knowledge that normal blood pressure is 120/80, but if you have malignant hypertension, your blood pressure will be much higher. Blood pressure readings of 180/120 or higher are classified as malignant hypertension.

Why does malignant hypertension occur?

Malignant hypertension can occur for a wide variety of reasons. In some cases, the cause can be as simple as someone with hypertension forgetting to take their high blood pressure medication. In other cases, it can be a symptom of serious cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks or strokes.

Organ failure can also lead to a spike in blood pressure, specifically heart or kidney failure. The condition may also occur during the last trimester of pregnancy; this is known as pre-eclampsia.

More unusual causes of malignant hypertension have also been reported. For example, eating large amounts of old-fashioned licorice can lead to a spike in blood pressure; this is due to an acid naturally present in licorice root.

How is malignant hypertension treated?

The goal of treatment is to reduce the blood pressure quickly. Generally, doctors try to reduce the blood pressure by 25% in the first day or two, as reducing it too quickly can decrease the blood flow to your organs. Intravenous medications like nitroprusside, fenoldopam or labetalol can be used to lower blood pressure quickly.

Once your blood pressure has been returned to a safe level, you'll need to follow-up with a doctor like Friedrich Tomas J MD to find out why your blood pressure spiked as well as how to prevent another spike in the future.

If you notice the symptoms of malignant hypertension, seek treatment immediately.