Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

Select An Article

Malignant Hypertension

Font Size

Malignant hypertension is extremely high blood pressure that develops rapidly and causes some type of organ damage. "Normal" blood pressure is below 140/90. A person with malignant hypertension has a blood pressure that's typically above 180/120. Malignant hypertension should be treated as a medical emergency.

What Causes Malignant Hypertension?

In many people, high blood pressure is the main cause of malignant hypertension. Missing doses of blood pressure medications can also cause it. In addition, there are certain medical conditions that can cause it. They include:


Who's at Risk for Malignant Hypertension?

Malignant hypertension is rare. About 1% of people who have a history of high blood pressure develop this life-threatening condition.

You are at greater risk of developing it if you are a man, African-American, or someone of lower economic status. Poor access to health care increases the risk.


What Are the Symptoms of Malignant Hypertension?

The main symptoms of malignant hypertension are a rapidly increasing blood pressure of 180/120 or higher and signs of organ damage. Usually, the damage happens to the kidneys or the eyes.

Other symptoms depend on how the rise in blood pressure affects your organs. A common symptom is bleeding and swelling in the tiny blood vessels in the retina. The retina is the layer of nerves that line the back of the eye. It senses light and sends signals to the brain through the optic nerve, which can also be affected by malignant hypertension. When the eye is involved, malignant hypertension can cause changes in vision.

Other symptoms of malignant hypertension include:

In rare cases, malignant hypertension can cause brain swelling, which leads to a dangerous condition called hypertensive encephalopathy. Symptoms include:

High blood pressure, in general, makes it difficult for kidneys to filter wastes and toxins from the blood. It is a leading cause of kidney failure. Malignant hypertension can cause your kidneys to suddenly stop working properly.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

blood pressure
Symptoms, causes, and more.
Learn the causes.
Compressed heart
5 habits to change.
Mature man floating in pool, goggles on head
Exercises that help.
heart healthy living
Erectile Dysfunction Slideshow
Bernstein Hypertension Affects Cardiac Risk
Compressed heart
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
thumbnail for lowering choloesterol slideshow
Heart Foods Slideshow
Low Blood Pressure