Pediatric Hypertension: High Blood Pressure Can Happen Earlier Than You Think
Mar 30, 2023
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. The blood pressure is created when the heart pumps the blood throughout the body. Hypertension can cause significant damage to body organs over time while often causing no symptoms. Currently, hypertension is one of most common causes of heart and kidney disease for children and adults. While people may think that hypertension is an adult disease, it can often occur in children with around 3-5% of children having hypertension. Hypertension needs to be diagnosed early and managed properly to prevent the development of permanent heart, kidney, and other organ issues.
Most children with hypertension have no symptoms while others may complain of minor symptoms such as headache, fatigue, or poor sleep quality. However, severe symptoms such as severe headache, vomiting and even seizures can occur when the blood pressure is very high or associated with significant kidney diseases.
To diagnose hypertension, medical providers are trained to check the blood pressure in the arms of children and adults. This measurement needs to be done while the person is calm and relaxed. When the blood pressure is high (for the subject age, height, and sex) on multiple checks, then we suspect chronic hypertension which often requires further evaluation with kidney and/or heart doctors.
Oftentimes children and young adults get nervous during their clinic visit which can cause the blood pressure to be falsely elevated while it is normal at home. Thus, we often require more frequent blood pressure checks at home, either via a home blood pressure machine or by doing a 24-hour blood pressure monitor (this can be done by the kidney doctors at Nationwide Children’s hospital).
When hypertension is diagnosed, it is important to be evaluated and to see what is causing it, as treating the cause can help in resolving the hypertension. Hypertension is often caused by having lots of salty foods, significant weight gain and being less active; however, it can also be caused by other diseases, especially kidney, heart and/or endocrine disorders. For this reason, the treating provider will often need some basic blood and urine testing as well as imaging to check on the health of your heart and/or your kidneys. These tests will help to better manage the hypertension and provide a personalized therapy plan to help treat the hypertension.
At Nationwide Children’s Hospital we have a team of experts to manage hypertension in children and young adults. We also have a comprehensive clinic for hypertension where the patient will meet with a team consisting of a kidney doctor, heart doctor, psychologist, and dietitian, who all work together to help manage the hypertension and other associated health issues.
Mahmoud Kallash, MD, is a pediatric nephrologist at the Nationwide Children's Hospital's Division of Nephrology and Hypertension. He is an associate professor at The Ohio State University and the director of the Comprehensive Hypertension Clinic at Nationwide Children's.
Andrew Tran, MD
Andrew Tran, MD, is a pediatric cardiologist and the director of the Preventative Cardiology Program at Nationwide Children's Hospital. He is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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