If you are under the impression that high blood pressure or hypertension is a condition limited to adults, think again. Newborns, infants and teenagers could also suffer from hypertension. It is estimated that nearly 5% of kids may have high blood pressure and the chances of a newborn having high blood pressure is unfortunately on the rise.
Newborn babies usually have high blood pressure when they are born pre-term or they have congenital problems with the heart or the kidneys. It has been noticed however that when kids have high blood pressure usually there is a family history of such conditions and/or coupled with a poor lifestyle including bad diets, obesity and inadequate physical activity.
High blood pressure in infants are however, caused by premature birth or they have problems with other organs like the kidneys, lungs, heart or even their vascular system. Premature babies are often born with a condition called broncho-pulmonary dysplasia, which is essentially immaturity of the lungs.
These babies many also have problems like coarctation of the aorta, which means that the major blood vessel which carries blood to the heart is narrowed. High blood pressure in infants could also be due to a blood clot in a kidney blood vessel.
Other causes include side effect of some medications, exposure to hallucinogenic drugs like cocaine while in the womb, some types of tumors, genetic problems or issues related to the thyroid gland functioning. Newborn babies are supposed to have blood pressure as 64/41 and it rises as the baby grows. So an average baby between one-month to 2 years would have the blood pressure reading as 95/58. Slight variations from these figures should not be a matter of concern but more than this medical help should be sought immediately.
Though high blood pressure symptoms are mostly absent from infants but there could be symptoms of the condition that is responsible for the high blood pressure or HBP. These include bluish or pale skin, zero weight gain or growth, frequent urinary tract infections, rapid breathing etc.
Other common symptoms when the infant has very high blood pressure could be easy irritability, vomiting, troublesome breathing and even seizures. To be sure that the infant has indeed HBP, the only way is to measure the blood pressure, which for infants is done using an automatic device.
For instance, if the HBP is due to coarctation of the aorta, the pulses in the legs could be reduced. Other tests to diagnose high blood pressure in infants include angiography, lab tests of blood and urine, X rays of chest and abdomen, ECG and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
Treatment for high blood pressure in infants largely depends on the cause behind the condition and may include: drug therapy, dialysis or surgical intervention like transplantation or coarctation repairing. The recovery rate for the infant would again depend on the cause.
For instance, whether the baby is born with other health problems or there has been any damage done resulting from high blood pressure etc. Possible complications could include failure of the heart or kidneys, seizures or any other organ damage.
As a parent you ought to be alert when to seek medical help and these would be when you notice your baby is not gaining weight or has bluish skin, suffers from urinary tract infections often and seems irritable all the time.
Unfortunately there is no way that high blood pressure in infants can be prevented. However there are some steps one can take to reduce the risk of such conditions. For instance, take the advice of a doctor before becoming pregnant, if you have a family history of congenital heart disease, hypertension or kidney disease. Also if you are on medication, taking them during pregnancy may also harm the baby and cause such situations to develop. Thus it is best to consult the doctor before you decide to become a mother.
Incidentally, a study done in the Netherlands involving 450 babies was done, and reported in the August 1, 2007 issue of Insider medicine confirms that babies born to smokers have a high chance of developing high blood pressure. The study also confirmed that babies born to smokers were considerably smaller and shorter compared to those born to non-smokers.