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What is Pediatric Hypertension?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2018
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Pediatric hypertension refers to high blood pressure in children up to the age of 18. Most people wouldn’t associate high blood pressure with kids since this seems to be a disease that particularly affects adult populations. Yet research has proven that incidence of this occurs with greater regularity than previously thought.

About 4-5% of kids may suffer from this condition. Whether this percentage is due to greater detection methods or a rise in conditions that may have a correlation to hypertension, like obesity, is not fully known. What is known is that given the risk, it makes sense to screen all kids for this disorder during routine physicals.

There aren’t many symptoms associated with pediatric hypertension. Some kids and teens may have more headaches. They might also complain of sleep disturbances or higher than usual levels of fatigue in daytime hours. Unfortunately, these symptoms could be easy to dismiss as benign, and children still might not have blood pressure checked on a regular basis. Alternately, an unusually high reading could be dismissed as “fear of a doctor,” or due to poor test interpretation.

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The guidelines that are being created to tackle pediatric hypertension suggest referral to a specialist if a child’s blood pressure exceeds 95% of what is considered normal for the age of the child. The actual numbers may be different in different age groups and dependent on things like height. Weight is a less accurate measure, since higher than normal weight may be considered a risk factor for this condition. It is not the only risk and things like cardiac defects, genetics, teen pregnancy, or diet could also play a role.

Given a diagnosis of pediatric hypertension, children might be referred to specialists like pediatric cardiologists or nephrologists. Efforts might be first focused on reducing blood pressure naturally, by such things as weight loss. These may not be the first action if blood pressure is exceptionally high, and instead using medication to reduce it might be suggested. Once hypertension is stabilized, children might remain on medications or eventually cease taking them. There is risk of continuing to have hypertension as an adult and this means some children with this condition are treated for life.

The reason treatment is vital is because high blood pressure can cause considerable damage to several organs and increase risk for stroke. In particular, the kidneys and the heart are most vulnerable to the destructive effects of hypertension. Experiencing pediatric hypertension means risking these organs or damaging them very early in life. Treatment may help minimize or arrest damage.

Hypertension affects about 5 in 100 children and may have few symptoms. It is not always connected to childhood obesity and has other causes. Regular blood pressure exams are one way to spot the hypertensive child, and parents should consider asking for one when their children have routine physicals. If hypertension is found, treatment of a variety of kinds can begin to protect the vital organs of the child.

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