Hypertension in Children: It exists and it is not harmless

Dr Ioanna Papoutsi

It is a proud moment when our Alumni speak out to make a difference in the Medical World! The following article is a narration by Dr Ioanna Papoutsi who is now a paediatrics resident, describing the diagnosis, possible causes and severity of hypertension cases in children.

Hypertension is a medical condition characterized by a high blood pressure, that is, the pressure that blood exerts on the walls of blood vessels. It is often misinterpreted as affecting adults, especially the elderly. It is true that it is much more common with increasing age however it does not occur exclusively in these ages. There has been an increase in the incidence of childhood hypertension in recent decades. This is mainly due to multiple changes in childhood habits and lifestyles such as a more sedentary life, the time children spend in front of screens as well as a combination of an unhealthy diet and reduced exercise which has led to increased childhood and adolescent obesity.

Hypertension has a low incident of 3-4% in children and adolescents and is often missed or when diagnosed the wrong treatment is prescribed. Although the effects of hypertension on the heart and blood vessels are very rare in children, as these lesions involve chronic processes and take a long time to develop, high blood pressure in childhood often develops into hypertension in adulthood. The causes of hypertension in children are similar to those in adults, but secondary hypertension is more common in children. The term “secondary” means that the hypertension is due to a specific disease, which if treated, the hypertension usually subsides. In children under 6 years of age, kidney disease is the most common cause of secondary hypertension, followed by cardiovascular disease (e.g. narrowing of the aortic isthmus) and more rarely, endocrine disorders (e.g. pheochromocytoma, Cushing’s syndrome), etc.

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