Asymptomatic hypertension is high blood pressure without symptoms. Regular screening is important to avoid potentially life threatening complications.

Your blood pressure is the pressure of your blood as it pushes against your artery walls. This pressure can rise and fall throughout your day depending on a number of factors, like exercise or stress. Some people may develop high blood pressure (hypertension) over time due to poor diet, too little physical activity, or underlying health conditions.

Many people without any symptoms don’t know they have hypertension, which can make it a silent risk to your health.

Here’s what you need to know about asymptomatic hypertension, how common this condition is, and what treatments may help you avoid complications.

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher). Asymptomatic means a condition doesn’t produce any symptoms. So, asymptomatic hypertension is high blood pressure without symptoms.

You may be surprised to learn that most people with hypertension don’t experience symptoms. Even people with very high blood pressure can be asymptomatic. In fact, up to 75% of people with severe hypertension may not have symptoms.

Individuals in this category — nearly 1.4 million people in the United States — may receive a diagnosis of severe asymptomatic hypertension (SAH). They may have a blood pressure reading of 180/120 mmHg or higher with no symptoms or signs of organ damage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the best way to discover whether or not you have hypertension is to have regular blood pressure screenings.

Tests can be done at a doctor or healthcare professional’s office during a routine visit. Your local pharmacy may also have a digital blood pressure machine that can give accurate readings without an appointment. Some people choose to monitor their blood pressure at home.

While high blood pressure may not cause symptoms, when it gets higher than 180/120 mmHg, you may experience:

Experts say if you don’t have these symptoms but your blood pressure is in this range, wait 5 minutes and then test again. If you continue to get high blood pressure readings but don’t have symptoms, call 911 or local emergency services for immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of organ damage include:

Even without these symptoms, you could be experiencing what’s called a hypertensive emergency.

A person may have hypertension for decades before discovering it. For this reason, high blood pressure is referred to as a “silent killer” because people often don’t know they have it until it has caused complications.

Recent studies reveal that people with asymptomatic hypertension are more likely to get medical care for complications of chronically high blood pressure than they are for severe hypertension itself.

These complications may include:

Experts don’t recommend aggressive treatment of high blood pressure episodes in people who are asymptomatic and don’t show signs of organ damage. Rapidly lowering your blood pressure may actually increase your risk of hypotension and reduce blood flow (hypoperfusion) to your organs.

Instead, high blood pressure may respond well over time to treatment with medication.

Treatment includes:

  • starting blood pressure medications if you’ve just received a diagnosis
  • resuming blood pressure medications if you’d stopped taking them
  • increasing the dose of your blood pressure medications if the current dose isn’t sufficient

There are two main types of hypertension and also three subtypes. You won’t necessarily know what type you have by having a blood pressure reading alone.

The two main types are:

From there, your high blood pressure may fall into the following subtypes:

  • Resistant hypertension: This is high blood pressure that doesn’t respond to medications.
  • Malignant hypertension: This is very high blood pressure that causes organ damage.
  • Isolated systolic hypertension: This is when you have high systolic and normal diastolic blood pressure.

A doctor can run tests to determine exactly what type of hypertension you’re experiencing. From there, you’ll get a treatment plan to target the root cause, whether it be lifestyle factors, an underlying health condition, or something else.

Hypertension is a condition that can lead to potentially serious complications. Many people with high blood pressure don’t have symptoms. Even people with very high blood pressure may be asymptomatic, like with SAH.

Testing your blood pressure regularly is the best way to monitor your status. If your numbers are consistently high, a doctor can prescribe medications to control your blood pressure and lower your risk of a hypertensive emergency and other complications.