Do children suffer from high blood pressure?

Monday October 7 2019


By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

Dr I flew to S.Africa last month only to be told my son had a certain problem with her intestines that needed correcting but only after controlling his high blood pressure. Do children also suffer from high blood pressure?


Hypertension locally called pressure is on the increase in children mainly due to obesity and increased awareness among others.
Whereas hypertension is more common as one grows older, children and adolescents are not spared either.
Unfortunately, unlike with adults where pressure is taken routinely and there are more implying symptoms, hypertension in children usually gives vague symptoms and therefore may be more difficult to suspect even by medical workers. Also, standards of what hypertension readings are in children for given age are not readily available.
The fact that pressure machines for children in Uganda are a rarity, means that machines for adults (with big cuffs) have been used giving falsely low figures.
Essential hypertension is that without found cause and is the commonest world over in children after puberty and adults. Other types of hypertension where the cause is found, are more common in younger children and may mainly show symptoms of a causative condition and treatment here involves addressing the cause.
The problems that one may be born with (congenital) like those involving adrenal gland hormones or blood vessels (coarctation of the aorta),or kidney abnormalities being some of the causes of high blood pressure in infants and children.
So, it is very necessary today to develop a routine of taking pressures in children especially those 3 years or more so that early treatment is given before other organs are irreversibly damaged.
This should especially be done in babies born prematurely, those not growing properly, have pimples before puberty, have a swollen tummy, sweat too much, are obese and have a family history of hypertension.
Family centred lifestyle changes (since this is a child who cannot say avoid food that leads to obesity)together with management by a paediatrician can help contain the problem.

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