High blood pressure (hypertension) is called a silent disease because it doesn’t cause symptoms. Your blood pressure could consistently rise for years, and you may never know until you had a heart attack or stroke.
However, hypertension can cause a headache if your blood pressure becomes dangerously high. And there are other connections among head pain, migraines, and high blood pressure.
The skilled Florida Pain Medicine team quickly evaluates your pain and determines the type of headache and its cause. They offer advanced treatments to relieve migraines and severe and chronic headaches, but headaches arising from severe hypertension are a medical emergency.
High blood pressure and headaches
High blood pressure and headaches share several connections. For starters, some people with high blood pressure have headaches.
Though experts have debated their relationship over the years, several studies confirm their connection. A 2023 study published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases reported that adults with severe headaches or migraines were 25% more likely to have high blood pressure.
Migraines and high blood pressure definitely share a two-way relationship. Having recurring migraines could be a red flag that you have hypertension. At the same time, people with high blood pressure are more likely to struggle with migraines.
The type of migraine may also affect your risk. Women who have migraine attacks without aura (unusual sensations shortly before the headache begins) have a dramatically higher chance of hypertension compared to those who experience aura before a migraine.
The medications used to lower blood pressure commonly cause headaches. If this happens, you may associate your headache with hypertension when it’s really due to the medicine.
Sudden hypertensive headaches need emergency care
A sudden, severe headache may occur if your blood pressure rises above 180/120 millimeters of mercury. This condition is called a hypertensive crisis.
Extremely high blood pressure most often develops if you don’t know you have high blood pressure, you’re diagnosed with the condition and stop taking medication, or you have kidney or thyroid disease. Certain medications, such as steroids and antidepressants, may also cause a hypertensive crisis.
When your blood pressure reaches such a dangerously high level, you can develop significant health complications. Without immediate treatment, you’re at risk of:
- Heart attack
- Vision loss
- Kidney damage
- Chest pain (angina)
- Tear in the aorta (aortic dissection)
- Bleeding around your brain
- Fluid buildup in your lungs (pulmonary edema)
Hypertensive headaches typically cause pain on the top of your head. You might also feel the pain around your head, as if you were wearing a tight band squeezing your head.
Depending on the organs affected by your severe hypertension, your headache may be accompanied by other symptoms. The most common are blurry vision, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness, or a nosebleed.
If your blood pressure is 180/120 or higher and you have a headache, you should immediately connect with your physician. But if you have any of the additional symptoms listed above, call 911 for emergency treatment.
Don’t wait to seek help for recurring or severe head pain; our experienced Florida Pain Medicine team can help you find relief. Call the nearest office, or request an appointment online today.