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Drug-induced Hypertension

Drug-induced Hypertension

Alternate Names

  • medication-induced hypertension
  • drug-induced high blood pressure

Definition

Drug-induced hypertension is an abnormally high blood pressure that has been brought on by a drug or medication.

What is going on in the body?

High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other problems. Medications sometimes cause hypertension. In these cases, the hypertension is usually mild and reversible.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There several common drugs that can lead to high blood pressure. These include:
  • birth control pills
  • alcohol
  • cocaine, amphetamines and other stimulant medications
  • corticosteroids
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines
  • some types of nasal decongestant medications

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

This type of reaction to a medication is rarely predictable. Therefore, the resulting high blood pressure cannot be avoided. Once a person knows that a drug causes his or herblood pressure to rise, that medication should not be used. Certain drugs such as cocaine almost always cause increased blood pressure. These substances should be avoided, especially by people with other medical problems.

Diagnosed

How is the condition diagnosed?

The condition is usually discovered when a person's blood pressure is elevated. The healthcare provider must then determine if the high blood pressure is the result of a medication. In some cases, this requires further testing. Another approach is for the person to stop taking the suspected medication to see if blood pressure returns to normal.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

The high blood pressure usually goes away without causing long-term problems once the medication is discontinued. A drug reaction resulting in extremely high blood pressure is usually associated with the abuse of stimulants ("uppers") or illegal street drugs. These cases can result in heart attack, stroke, other organ damage, or death.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

Blood pressure will usually return to normal when the medication is stopped. In some cases, it may be dangerous for the individual to discontinue the medication responsible for the high blood pressure because the original condition being treated may recur or get worse. These people can be treated with other drugs to lower blood pressure.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

If a drug has to be discontinued because of high blood pressure, the condition it was prescribed to treat may worsen or return. Additional medications used to treat high blood pressure may cause side effects of their own. These can induce allergic reaction, stomach upset, and other symptoms depending upon the drug.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Once the drug is stopped and blood pressure returns to normal, further treatment is generally unnecessary. However, sometimes this hypertensive response to a medication may be the healthcare provider's first clue that the person actually has underlying high blood pressure. In this case, the exaggerated response to the medication was superimposed upon his existing hypertensive condition. After the medication is withdrawn, treatment may still be needed.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

Repeat blood pressure measurements can be used to monitor the condition until it goes away.

Sources

Cecil's Textbook of Medicine, 1996, Bennett et al.

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