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What Are the Signs, Symptoms, and Complications of High Blood Pressure?

Because diagnosis is based on blood pressure readings, this condition can go undetected for years, as symptoms do not usually appear until the body is damaged from chronic high blood pressure.

Complications of High Blood Pressure

When blood pressure stays high over time, it can damage the body and cause complications. Some common complications and their signs and symptoms include:

  • Aneurysms: When an abnormal bulge forms in the wall of an artery. Aneurysms develop and grow for years without causing signs or symptoms until they rupture, grow large enough to press on nearby body parts, or block blood flow. The signs and symptoms that develop depend on the location of the aneurysm.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease: When blood vessels narrow in the kidneys, possibly causing kidney failure.
  • Cognitive Changes: Research shows that over time, higher blood pressure numbers can lead to cognitive changes. Signs and symptoms include memory loss, difficulty finding words, and losing focus during conversations.
  • Eye Damage: When blood vessels in the eyes burst or bleed. Signs and symptoms include vision changes or blindness.
  • Heart Attack: When the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart doesn’t get oxygen. The most common warning symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain or discomfort, upper body discomfort, and shortness of breath.
  • Heart Failure: When the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Common signs and symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath or trouble breathing; feeling tired; and swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and veins in the neck.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease: A disease in which plaque builds up in leg arteries and affects blood flow in the legs. When people have symptoms, the most common are pain, cramping, numbness, aching, or heaviness in the legs, feet, and buttocks after walking or climbing stairs.
  • Stroke: When the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the brain is blocked. The symptoms of a stroke include sudden onset of weakness; paralysis or numbness of the face, arms, or legs; trouble speaking or understanding speech; and trouble seeing.
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Last Updated: September 10, 2015