High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is classified as "essential" (primary) or "secondary.” Essential hypertension does not have an apparent cause. It may be due to such things as family history or lifestyle. Most people with high blood pressure have essential hypertension.
Secondary hypertension, which happens in about 10% of people with high blood pressure, is less common and is the result of another condition, such as:
- Disorders of the adrenal gland (small organs, located above the kidneys, that create hormones), including Cushing's syndrome (a condition caused by an overproduction of cortisol); hyperaldosteronism (too much aldosterone); and pheochromocytoma (a rare tumor that causes oversecretion of hormones like adrenaline)
- Kidney disease, which may include polycystic kidney disease, kidney tumor, kidney failure, or a narrow or blocked main artery supplying the kidney
- Drugs such as corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory drugs like prednisone), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Motrin, Aleve, Naprosyn, Celebrex), weight loss drugs (such as phentermine), cold medications that include decongestants such as pseudoephedrine, birth control pills (the estrogen component), and migraine medications (such as Imitrex).
- Sleep apnea, a condition in which a person has brief spells in which they stop breathing during sleep; about half of patients with this condition have high blood pressure.
- Coarctation of the aorta, a birth defect in which the aorta is narrowed
- Preeclampsia, a condition related to pregnancy
- Thyroid and parathyroid problems
How Is Secondary Hypertension Diagnosed?
After you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may do other tests such as blood and urine screening to make sure you don't have secondary hypertension.
How Is Secondary Hypertension Treated?
In order to treat secondary hypertension, your doctor will address the underlying condition or disorder.
When the root cause of secondary hypertension is treated, blood pressure usually lowers or returns to normal.
In cases where narrowed arteries are the cause of high blood pressure (coarctation, narrowed kidney arteries) you may need surgery.
Your doctor may also choose to treat you with blood pressure drugs in addition to addressing the underlying health issues.