Secondary hypertension

Secondary hypertension (secondary high blood pressure) is high blood pressure that's caused by another medical condition. Secondary hypertension differs from the usual type of high blood pressure (essential hypertension), which is often referred to simply as high blood pressure. Essential hypertension, also known as primary hypertension, has no clear cause and is thought to be linked to genetics, poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity.

Secondary hypertension can be caused by conditions that affect your kidneys, arteries, heart or endocrine system. Secondary hypertension can also occur during pregnancy.

Proper treatment of secondary hypertension can often control both the underlying condition and the high blood pressure, which reduces the risk of serious complications — including heart disease, kidney failure and stroke.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Like primary high blood pressure (hypertension), secondary hypertension usually has no specific signs or symptoms, even if your blood pressure has reached dangerously high levels.

Some people may experience headaches from secondary hypertension, but it's difficult to know if high blood pressure or something else is causing the headaches.

If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, having any of these signs may mean your condition is secondary hypertension:

  • High blood pressure that doesn't respond to blood pressure medications (resistant hypertension)
  • Very high blood pressure — systolic blood pressure over 160 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or diastolic blood pressure over 100 mm Hg
  • A blood pressure medication or medications that previously controlled your blood pressure no longer work
  • Sudden-onset high blood pressure before age 30 or after age 55
  • No family history of high blood pressure
  • No obesity

When to see a doctor

If you have a condition that can cause secondary hypertension, you may need your blood pressure checked more frequently. Ask your doctor how often to have your blood pressure checked.

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