Hypertensive crisis: A severe and potentially life-threatening increase in blood pressure . A hypertensive crisis is a medical emergency. When the blood pressure rises to levels of 180/110 or greater, the blood vessels and organs may become damaged. This damage can be manifested as a number of conditions including stroke, heart attack, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), a tear in the main artery of the body, the aorta (known as an aortic dissection), and eclampsia (during pregnancy).
Symptoms of a hypertensive crisis can include the symptoms typical for a stroke or heart attack; difficulty breathing, changes in mental status, and severe headache may also occur. Immediate medical attention is required for a severe increase in blood pressure. Treatment can involve hospitalization and the use of oral and/or intravenous medications.
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Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012