High blood pressure occurs when blood pushes too hard against the walls of your arteries while traveling through the body.
This extra pressure — called hypertension — can damage your organs over time. It can damage your heart, brain, eyes, lungs, and kidneys.
Doctors use the term secondary hypertension or complex hypertension to refer to high blood pressure that is caused by some other underlying disease. Your doctor may suspect secondary hypertension if your high blood pressure is not controlled with treatments that are usually effective, you suddenly develop high blood pressure, or if the blood pressure is severely elevated. This is especially true if you're under 30 or if you also have an electrolyte disorder.
Secondary hypertension can have many different causes. Major causes include:
High blood pressure can cause a number of complications. It can be deadly if left untreated.
High blood pressure can damage the kidneys. This reduces the ability of the kidneys to clean the blood. Waste products build up in the body, causing widespread organ damage over time.
These waste products include:
Damaged kidneys also lose their ability to control blood pressure. This drives up blood pressure even higher, which causes more kidney damage and can lead to kidney failure.
Depending on the cause of your secondary hypertension, it may be impossible to prevent. The goal of treatment is to identify a cause, so that your doctors can keep your high blood pressure under control. That way, you can avoid the impact of progressive kidney disease.
Your doctor will help you control your secondary high blood pressure by:
At the UPMC Kidney Disease Center, our experts:
At the UPMC Kidney Disease Center, we will work with you to identify the cause of your high blood pressure and help you manage your high blood pressure to slow the progression of kidney disease.
Some doctors call high blood pressure a “silent killer" because you may not notice any symptoms, especially early in the process. But people with severe high blood pressure do sometimes experience:
These could be signs of an emergency. Follow your doctor's instructions for dealing with hypertensive emergency if you already have high blood pressure.
Call 911 or seek emergency medical care if you don't have a high blood pressure diagnosis.
If your primary care doctor suspects you may have secondary hypertension, they will refer you to a nephrologist.
What a nephrologist can do is perform a specialized investigation into the potential causes of your complex hypertension. This investigation includes:
By identifying the cause of your hypertension, a nephrologist can work with you to develop a personalized plan to treat your condition and get your blood pressure under control.
If you have secondary hypertension caused by kidney disease, your doctor will design a treatment plan that may include:
Your doctor will suggest lifelong heart-healthy lifestyle changes to help control your hypertensive kidney disease like:
Your doctor can refer you to a UPMC nutritionist or weight-loss specialist if you need help.
You'll also need to check your blood pressure often. Your doctor will let you know how and when to check it at home.
Making healthy lifestyle changes are crucial for people with high blood pressure in the kidneys.
But most people who have the disease also need to take one or more drugs to control their high blood pressure:
Your doctor will help you decide the ideal mix of lifestyle changes and medical therapies to get your blood pressure to a healthy level.
To control secondary hypertension, your underlying kidney disease will also need to be treated. These treatments are complex and will vary depending on the condition involved.
Medical treatments for kidney disease may include:
If you can't control your disease with medication, in rare cases your doctor may suggest one of two surgeries:
To learn more about kidney disease: