Hypertension 5 – Complications

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3d brain image

Hi there. Dr Louella here, finishing up the discussion on complications of high blood pressure. Remember, this is to answer the question, why do we treat hypertension, especially when it has no symptoms? We already identified how hypertension causes both ischaemic heart disease, which can lead to heart attack, and heart failure. We now continue to other complications.

Hypertension is the major cause of stroke, which occurs in the same fashion as heart attack, by blockage of blood flow to parts of the brain. We can use the same picture below to demonstrate.

From: cdc.gov

From: cdc.gov

Hypertension damages the inner lining of blood vessels allowing cholesterol to enter the wall and form a plaque that partially blocks blood flow. If it a blood clot forms at the site it seals up the blockage long enough for no blood to flow and permanently damage brain cells. Persons are unable to use parts of the body which are controlled by the affected regions of the brain.

Narrowing of the small blood vessels of the kidneys leads to chronic kidney disease and in some, renal failure. In the eyes it causes eye disorders such as cataract, glaucoma and bleeding in the back of the eye (retinal haemorrhage). Less common occurrences are the deadly aneurysms (ballooning of blood vessels due to weakened walls) which can occur especially in the abdomen.

Once you have untreated or inadequately treated hypertension some amount of organ damage is bound to take place. Nowadays most people end up with complications due to poorly treated hypertension. Stroke, for example, is way too common in Trinidad. I often ask my patients if they don’t mind having a stroke and give a visual demonstration to remind them what it’s like.

Many years ago, I came home from school in the third form (9th grade) to find my granny (fond name for grandmother) in the local hospital with a stroke. Of course, life for me was never the same as she couldn’t walk or talk after that. At 83 she had been a really active woman. She was said to be bringing in the goats when it happened (yeah we had goats and I loved them; no it wasn’t a farm and none of the neighbours had; we just happened to have goats).

Granny survived four years after that. Though we never admitted it, it was a burden to care full time for her although it was also a joy. She needed caretakers when we were out to work and school.

The moral of the story is, especially for those with hypertension in the family like me, don’t get hypertension! Don’t get a stroke! Or heart disease, or cataract!

We will learn how to prevent this silent killer and its awful complications in the next talk. Ciao kids!!!

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