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Primary & Secondary Hypertension

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Updated December 08, 2006

An important part of any high blood pressure diagnosis includes determining whether the disorder is “primary” or “secondary.” These two classifications refer to the underlying cause of the high blood pressure, and do not have anything to do with how serious the actual high blood pressure is.

Primary Hypertension:

The vast majority of high blood pressure diagnoses fall into the category of “primary hypertension” also called “essential hypertension.” This classification means that your doctor or health care team is not able to locate a single cause which explains the elevated blood pressure. Another medical term used to describe illness without obvious underlying cause is “idiopathic,” and you may hear your doctor use this term. High blood pressure is a complicated disease, with complex and often interrelated genetic and environmental factors, it is usually not possible to say for sure which elements combined to produce it.

Secondary Hypertension:

A modest number of high blood pressure diagnoses are classified as “secondary hypertension.” The classification differs from a diagnosis of primary hypertension because in this case, a clearly identifiable cause of the high blood pressure is determined. A wide variety of underlying problems can cause high blood pressure. Some important conditions include

  • Kidney Problems
  • Pregnancy
  • Medication Side Effects
  • Some types of tumors or cancer

Know Your Diagnosis:

Because the management strategies and treatment options available depend on the underlying cause of high blood pressure, it is important to understand which type of high blood pressure you have. If your doctor has not addressed this with you, ask him.

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