Secondary hypertension happens when you have high blood pressure that is caused by a known disease or condition. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common condition that is characterized by having a higher amount of pressure in your blood vessels than normal.
Blood pressure is typically measured with an inflatable cuff that is placed around your arm. When taking your blood pressure, your healthcare provider is looking for two measurements:
The two measurements are listed together, systolic on top of diastolic. A normal blood pressure measurement is less than 120/80. Once your blood pressure rises above this measurement, your healthcare provider will start to monitor you for high blood pressure. It’s a condition that can be treated.
High blood pressure that doesn’t have a known cause is called essential or primary hypertension. In contrast, secondary hypertension has a known cause.
Because secondary hypertension is rare, occurring in only 5 to 10 percent of the population, it is not always discovered. Testing for secondary hypertension can be expensive, so your healthcare provider will typically wait to begin testing until they strongly suspect secondary hypertension.
Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that is caused by another condition or disease. There are many different conditions or diseases that can cause secondary hypertension, including:
Side effects from certain medications can also contribute to secondary hypertension. Medications like:
Symptoms of secondary hypertension can vary depending on the type of condition or disease that is acting in combination with high blood pressure. Additionally, there may be difficulty controlling high blood pressure by using just one or two medications. The American Heart Association guidelines now define high blood pressure as blood pressure reading 130/80 or higher.
Examples of symptoms for some conditions can include:
Because secondary hypertension is relatively rare, and screening for causes can be expensive and time-consuming, not every patient with high blood pressure will be tested for the condition. Your healthcare provider will test you if they feel there is a strong probable case. There are several factors that help determine if you should be screened for secondary hypertension. These factors include:
Your healthcare provider will focus on the symptoms and signs of conditions that could cause secondary hypertension. Physical signs could include:
Blood tests may also be done. These could include:
Imaging tests could also be done to look at the size and structure of organs. These tests may include:
Your blood pressure will also be monitored to see if it dips at different points in the day or night.
Treatment for secondary hypertension will depend on the secondary condition your healthcare provider diagnoses. Secondary hypertension will last as long as you have the secondary condition. It is best to follow several tips for controlling high blood pressure (hypertension) while being treated for your underlying condition. These tips include:
In cases where a tumor is found to be the cause of the secondary hypertension, surgery may be needed to treat the condition. For hormonal imbalances and other conditions, medication may be used to treat secondary hypertension.
Some causes of secondary hypertension, such as tumors or abnormal blood vessel structures, cannot be prevented. Other causes of the condition, such as medication use or a high body weight, could be prevented through lifestyle changes and awareness of potential side effects of medications. Discuss medication side effects with your doctor. You should not stop any medications without a speaking to your doctor.
Secondary hypertension has a positive outlook with treatment. Early detection and treatment can help minimize the possibility of serious damage due to abnormal blood vessel shape or tumors.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) can become more common as patients age. It is not uncommon for patients to need to be continuously treated for high blood pressure, even after the underlying condition of their secondary hypertension has been treated.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 05/03/2019