The danger areas for high blood pressure (or hypertension) are the eyes, heart, kidneys and blood vessels. If high blood pressure remains untreated it can slowly damage blood vessels and major organs without showing any obvious symptoms. That’s why high blood pressure is often called “the silent killer”. About 50% of the people affected by high blood pressure are unaware that they have the problem.
The only external symptoms you may get (not always) with very high blood pressure are headaches, blurred vision and dizziness. But it may affect you internally if untreated in the following ways
The walls of your blood vessels thicken (probably to withstand the extra pressure placed on them) and they narrow and harden. This increases atherosclerosis (or furring up of the arteries) which is a factor in the development of heart disease. As the arteries become narrower, blood flow becomes increasingly sluggish and blood thickens and clots more easily. This makes thrombosis more likely. Thrombosis is a clot of blood which attaches itself to the roughened wall of an artery. In some cases the clot may completely block an artery and if that artery serves your heart, a heart attack can result. If the blocked artery leads to your brain, a stroke is the likely outcome.
High blood pressure causes a great strain on your heart as the heart is forced to work harder to pump blood round your body. To start with, the heart muscle enlarges (like any other muscle) to cope with the added work but eventually it is unable to get any stronger and the pump starts to fail. At this stage fluid may accumulate in the feet and ankles due to the heart being unable to cope with keeping the circulation moving around the whole body and the smallest exertion can leave you gasping for breath.
High blood pressure damages the tissues and thickens the blood vessels in the kidneys making them less efficient. As an early symptom they may lose their ability to concentrate urine causing the need to urinate in the middle of the night.
Blood pressure has to be exceedingly high to damage the eyes but it does cause some changes in the tiny blood vessels in the retina and this may be a good indication of how long high blood pressure has been present.
Remember that getting early treatment for high blood pressure can help reduce the risk of developing the most serious problems, so it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly so that hypertension can be picked up as early as possible.