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

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a chronic condition that affects more than 100 crore adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It occurs when the pressure of blood on the walls of the arteries is consistently too high, reaching 140/90 mmHg or higher. While usually considered a ‘grown-up’ disease, high blood pressure can occur at any age. Around 7% of school-going children in India have hypertension.

High Blood Pressure In Children

A 2022 review published in the Kidney International Reports suggests that between 3% and 5% of children and adolescents suffer from hypertension, whereas between 10% and 14% have elevated BP levels, signaling 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

Just like in adults, high blood pressure is often ‘silent’ in children, especially in the initial stages, warned Dr Raghunath.

“While high blood pressure is often thought to cause nosebleeds and headaches, evidence suggests this is uncommon,” he clarified.

Some of the common signs to note include:

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

In severe cases, high levels of blood pressure can lead to serious problems like strokes and heart attacks.

Preventive Measures

While Dr. Raghunath emphasized the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, he recommended monitoring blood pressure in children regularly to detect the problem early, especially if there is a strong family history.

Parents also need to take 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 taking less salt), weight management, and exercise play a crucial role in controlling high blood pressure,” the doctor shared.

Additionally, a well-balanced diet, avoiding junk food, indulging in adequate physical activity, and sleeping sufficiently can also help prevent obesity and consequently high blood pressure in children.

Leave a Comment