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What is malignant high blood pressure?

Malignant high blood pressure is extremely high blood pressure that develops rapidly and causes organ damage.

Malignant high blood pressure is a medical emergency in which blood pressure rises to very high levels suddenly and quickly. It can lead to serious damage to organs including the kidneys, heart, brain and eyes, even causing vision loss. Malignant high blood pressure affects about 1 percent of people (both children and adults) who have high blood pressure. People who have kidney problems, certain collagen disorders (lupus, sclerosis) and pregnant women who have preemclampsia (toxemia of pregnancy) are at increased risk for malignant high blood pressure.

Symptoms of malignant high blood pressure may include:

  • chest pain
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • blurred vision or other vision problems
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • anxiety, restlessness, confusion
  • fatigue and sleepiness
  • cough
  • headache
  • seizure
  • weakness of arms, legs, face or other areas

Call 911 or go straight to the emergency room if you have signs of malignant high blood pressure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.