High blood pressure (hypertension) is an increase in the force of blood against the arteries in the body. This article focuses on high blood pressure in infants.
Blood pressure measures how hard the heart is working, and how healthy the arteries are. There are two numbers in each blood pressure measurement:
Blood pressure measurements are written this way: 120/80. One or both of these numbers can be too high.
Several factors affect blood pressure, including:
High blood pressure in infants may be due to kidney or heart disease that is present at birth (congenital). Common examples include:
In newborn babies, high blood pressure is often caused by a blood clot in a kidney blood vessel, a complication of having an umbilical artery catheter.
Other causes of high blood pressure in infants may include:
Blood pressure rises as the baby grows. The average blood pressure in a newborn is 64/41. The average blood pressure in a child 1 month through 2 years old is 95/58. It is normal for these numbers to vary.
Most babies with high blood pressure will not have symptoms. Instead, symptoms may be related to the condition causing the high blood pressure. These symptoms may include:
Symptoms that may appear if the baby has very high blood pressure include:
In most cases, the only sign of high blood pressure is the blood pressure measurement itself.
Signs of very high blood pressure include:
Blood pressure in infants is measured with an automatic device.
If coarctation of the aorta is the cause, there may be decreased pulses or blood pressure in the legs. A click may be heard if a bicuspid aortic valve occurs with the coarctation.
Other tests in infants with high blood pressure will try to find the cause of the problem. Such tests may include:
The treatment depends on the cause of high blood pressure in the infant. Treatment can include:
How well the baby does depends on the cause of high blood pressure and other factors such as:
Untreated, high blood pressure may lead to:
Call your health care provider if your baby:
Take your baby to the emergency department if your baby:
Some causes of high blood pressure run in families. Talk to your provider before you get pregnant if you have a family history of:
Also talk to your provider before becoming pregnant if you take medicine for a health problem. Exposure to certain drugs in the womb may increase your baby's risk of developing problems that can lead to high blood pressure.
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.