High Blood Pressure in Children: Recognizing Common Causes and Symptoms

Similar to adults, children can also develop high blood pressure. Here’s what parents need to know about its causes and symptoms.

High Blood Pressure In Children: Common Causes And Symptoms To Note
High Blood Pressure In Children: Common Causes And Symptoms To Note

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a chronic condition that affects over 1 billion adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It arises when the pressure of blood on the walls of the arteries consistently exceeds 140/90 mmHg or higher. While commonly viewed as a condition affecting adults, high blood pressure can develop at any age. In fact, approximately 7% of school-going children in India have hypertension, as noted by Dr. Veena Raghunathan, Senior Consultant at PICU, Amrita Hospital Faridabad, in an interview with Healthonlyforyou.

High Blood Pressure In Children

High Blood Pressure In Children

A review published in Kidney International Reports in 2022 suggests that between 3% and 5% of children and adolescents suffer from hypertension, while between 10% and 14% have elevated blood pressure levels, indicating prehypertension.

Normal blood pressure levels in children are typically defined as systolic and diastolic pressures below the 90th percentile for their age, sex, and height. Elevated blood pressure falls between the 90th and 95th percentiles, while high blood pressure, or hypertension, is indicated by readings at or above the 95th percentile.

When it comes to the causes of hypertension in children, there are broadly two types:

“The first is primary (or essential) hypertension, which is when doctors are unable to identify an exact cause for high blood pressure. However, some factors, like being obese or having a family history of hypertension, can increase the likelihood of its occurrence,” said Dr. Raghunathan.

In contrast, secondary hypertension occurs when a definite cause can be identified.

“In about 3/4th of cases, the cause of high blood pressure is a kidney problem in children. Many other causes, including blood vessel abnormalities, thyroid or adrenal gland problems, and the use of certain medications, can be responsible for this type of hypertension,” the doctor added.

Symptoms To Note In Kids

Symptoms To Note In Kids

As Dr. Raghunath cautioned, high blood pressure in children is often “silent,” particularly in the early stages. While it’s commonly believed that high blood pressure causes nosebleeds and headaches, evidence suggests that this is actually uncommon.

Here are some common signs to note in children:

1. Facial flushing
2. Blood spots in the eyes and visual disturbances (seeing floaters or sudden decreased vision)
3. Dizziness and loss of balance, especially if sudden
4. Nosebleeds
5. Fluttering heart

In severe cases, high levels of blood pressure can lead to serious problems like strokes and heart attacks. Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider are essential for monitoring blood pressure in children and detecting any potential issues early on.

Preventive Measures

Preventive Measures

Dr. Raghunath emphasized the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, recommending regular monitoring of blood pressure in children, especially if there is a strong family history.

Parents also play a crucial role in preventive measures.

“High blood pressure can be controlled by a combination of lifestyle changes and medications as prescribed by the doctor. Dietary changes, such as reducing salt intake, weight management, and exercise, play a crucial role in controlling high blood pressure,” the doctor shared.

Additionally, maintaining a well-balanced diet, avoiding junk food, engaging in adequate physical activity, and ensuring sufficient sleep can help prevent obesity and consequently high blood pressure in children.